An Exclusive Interview with Terrence Howard
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April 28, 2008
After appearing in almost a record 7 films last year (Pride, The Salon, The Hunting Party, August Rush, Awake, The Brave One, The Perfect Holiday), one would think that Terrence Howard worked hard enough to take a break for while, but don’t tell that to him. While he hasn’t appeared in a film in the early part of the year, Terrence is busy playing the part of Brick on Broadway’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, opposite James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and Anika Noni Rose. Even with the show, that hasn’t stopped him from completing his film responsibility.
Taking a break from the show to promote his latest him, Howard’s next role is massively appealing since he’s playing Jim Rhodes in the comic book turned film ‘Iron Man’ with Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark. From what’s gathered in the comic book, if the film is successful, there’s a chance Howard’s lined to get a spinoff film of his own as War Machine.
In speaking exclusively with blackfilm.com, Howard talks about his role, working on Braodway, and his upcoming jazz album.
What attracted you to the role?
Terrence Howard: Being in the comic book series, you look at the success of X-Men and the serious issues that were addressed in that , and the idea of being one of the first black superheroes. That’s pretty dam attractive.
Have you been a fan of the comic book series?
TH: A little bit. I didn’t buy the comics when I was young, but growing up in the projects, and getting 25 cents at the end of the week, that wasn’t going to a comic book. I was trying to save that money; but my father kept the comics. He liked them a lot and would always point out the power of War Machine. I wasn’t that interested in War Machine. I wanted to be Superman. I wanted to be one of the X-Men.
Why do you think your character, Jim Rhodes, is important in the film?
TH: Well, it’s always a balance. Tony ends up trumping me ultimately because I keep reminding him that he had a duty and an honor and a responsibility that he recognizes that he has a duty and a honor to humanity. That goes past any exhaustion. I just do what I am told
Did you know you were cast in the film ahead of f John Ahead?
TH: I knew that.
Did you know at the time that Robert was going to play Tony?
TH: No. They weren’t even talking about Robert. It was on the page.
What did you think when you learned you been cast first?
TH: Susan Downey brought it up to me first. We were shooting ‘The Brace One’ and she came in to my trailer and we hadn’t been that friendly. We were cordial but hadn’t been that friendly and she said, Robert’s interested in doing ‘Iron Man’ and I go, ‘Really?’ I then go around the corner and called Ari Avad and asking the input of Robert Downey Jr.. Avi had the in the cast. Avi had that, ‘It not going to happen He can’t get bonded.’ I told that they should reconsidering it With Robert in the film, I would be interested in doing this because if I have to take second lead to a no name actor who won’t be able to carry the movie and I’m forced to carry, it’s a little uncomfortable. But with Robert, I would not mind, a big second under his head for a while. There is so much I can gain from him. I don’t there’s anybody that’s better for the character. So they left it alone, and a week later, I hear that he screen tested. I had talked to Jon Favreau and he said not to get my hopes up and then when I heard that they were ready to go with him, I leaped for the ceiling.
Now that the film is complete and ready to roll out, how was it working with him?
TH: I have never learned more from an actor in my life. He is, probably one of the most gifted actors we have because his delivery heavy information in a less self-pityimg way. With his smiles and his laugher, his wit is completely transparent. He doesn’t how long it will take to set up the lighting and if it’s not right, it’s not right. Then they will try to make it right. There is no falseness in his activities. He’s the most truthful actors I have ever seen in my life.
Of the scenes that you had shot, were there any that were challenging?
TH: No. what’s challenging about being in the military? It’s straight forward. Robert had the challenging stuff. Hopefully, in the next one, through the emotional journey, it will be a bit challenging.
From the comics we know that Jim Rhodes will eventually be War Machine. Is the suit in this film big enough that one size fits all?
TH: No. That suit is specially made to fit each individual. We didn’t necessarily touch on it in this one, but in the comic book, the helmet was tuned to Robert’s electro-brain activity, to his key brain functions, which ultimately would drive Rhodey crazy once Rhodey puts it on. Everybody has to have their own suit.
How was working with the rest of the cast?
TH: It was great. I have been a fan of Jeff my entire life. I like Gwyneth’s versatility as a human being. I don’t remember seeing her in some huge blockbuster film, but I knew her, and beyond the Oscar, I knew her as a human being. As an actress, I don’t think she has any competition. That’s why one of the most intelligent individuals on the planet (Coldplay’s Chris Martin) took her to be his wife. He recognized her strengths and abilities. Can’t wait to see what happens with their kids.
How does it feel to do Broadway everyday with ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’?
TH: Well, I think that they do too much. Broadway would be great if it was five shows a week. Eight shows a week is much. There is no time for the actor to recharge and so people get stuck into a performance. Six days a week is not good, but challenging yourself on a daily basis to find the character, that’s the reward in itself. I don’t know how people do Broadway for years, and I don’t know how people do it for a few month at a time.
In working with James Earl Jones on the play, has he given you wisdom or advice?
TH: James thinks I’m dangerous, but he treats me like a son and respects my creative process. He feels like my father, and often times, I feel like he’s passing the reigns onto me. When we’re working, I’ve never seen him give me advice about a particular way, but sometimes in the middle of a performance, I would see his hand move. Maybe he’s turning back into Darth Vader and using a Jedi on me and he calms me down with the wave of his hand. Maybe I’ve gotten too excited and when I asked him about it, he said he was fanning himself.
Have you seen Boris (Kodjoe) do your part in your absence?
TH: No. I can’t watch someone else make love to my wife. (Smiles)
With the break that you are taking from the show to promote this film, are you ready to play Brick again?
TH: I think I have been Brick the whole time; before this Iron Man stuff. I never let go of Brick. You can’t do that. I’m being treated like a child of privileged; sitting up in the middle of the Waldorf-Astoria.
When the press day is over and there’s no show for now, when do you get to be yourself that no one sees or maybe knows about?
TH: I don’t. That doesn’t exist anymore. My son lives with me now. I get to enjoy that. Working out with him but I don’t get to be normal for a while. That wasn’t part of the contract. It’s like signing into the service. For the next four years, you are owned by a commitment. I made a commitment to this business to do the very best that I can and build what I can out of it. When the time is up, I will walk away.
You have a number of films coming up that are different from each other. What can you say about ‘Fighting’ with Channing Tatum?
TH: I think Dito Montiel is probably the most innovative director I have ever worked with. Pure genius. I don’t understand that. Therefore you are forced to follow him step by step because you can’t put a pattern to who he is. Channing gives everything he has as an actor. His willingness is beyond belief. To put his body at risk and stay up 25 hours shooting and come back 3 hours later if he had. The integrity, Jake Pushinsky, I would work with him a thousand times over. I think it’s going to be an incredible film. The studio thought that they were making ‘The Fast and the Furious’, but they have something closer to ‘Midnight Cowboy’.
Are you still planning to do ‘The Crusaders’, the Thurgood Marshall story?
TH: I don’t know if that’s in the cards anymore.
What about ‘Factory X’ with Eric Bana?
TH: That’s still a work in progress.
What do you have lined up after your run on Broadway?
TH: I’m just working on my album, ‘Me and The Band of Kings’.
Is it a collection of jazz songs?
TH: It’s orchestral jazz story songs.
Why do an album?
TH: Same reason I decided to breathe this morning. I had no choice. Same reason I’m an actor. Some things you have a choice and other things you can’t choose who you are. It chooses you. You can choose how you behave with it, but if you are a monster, you can’t act like you are a butterfly. You have to stay a monster and the music is the monster in me that had to come out.
Why do you love to wear Fedora hats?
TH: I like the way I look in them. I like how it makes me feel. It feels like me.
IRON MAN opens on May 2, 2008
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