All the latest on IRON MAN 2

Well, lots of the latest. Maybe not all of it. Because things are moving fast.

Here’s the last bit I wrote about this …

Ironing out Iron Man 2

… and a lot has happened since then. As in … it’s filming! Right now! And that’s awesome.

Before we move forward, let’s wrap up some loose ends.

Terrence Howard, who did an awesome job as Tony Stark’s Air Force liaison James Rhodes but found himself replaced for the sequel by Don Cheadle, told SCI FI Wire that he thinks Marvel made “a very, very bad choice.”

But he’s not saying that Cheadle himself was a bad choice. In fact, Howard speaks highly of Cheadle and credits the new Rhodes with giving him the part in Crash that opened up lots of other opportunities for him. I really liked Howard in Iron Man, and I’m sad to see him go, but then again it’s hard to complain about getting Don Cheadle. You can read more of Howard’s comments on the matter at MTV’s Splash Page.

Speaking of Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, you can see him in costume right here, and then you can keep reading that article to learn about Garry Shandling being cast in the film as a senator.

The news originated at IESB, who were the first to confirm the character.

Both of these reports suggest the sequel might begin at the exact same press conference where the first one so memorably ended. (Part of me likes that idea, but part of me would rather see Tony dealing with his worldwide revelation after a little bit of time has passed.)

Also be sure to follow MTV’s link to Spoiler TV to see more photos of Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr. (as Tony Stark with an Iron Man lunch box), and Gwyneth Paltrow (as Tony’s spectacularly named assistant Pepper Potts) on the set.

I loved Gwyneth Paltrow in the first one; I’ve rarely seen awkwardness played with such lovely, endearing sweetness.

A scheduling conflict cost Emily Blunt the role of sexy spy Natalia Romanova, aka Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow, now aka Scarlett Johannson. Make no mistake — I would make out with Scarlett Johannson until my lungs deflated. But I wonder if she’s maybe not a bit too young for the part. One of the things I loved about the first movie is that they didn’t make the mistake of casting a bunch of 20-somethings. It’s not Scarlett’s fault that she’s only 25, but maybe an older actress would have been better for this. We’ll see. At the very least she’ll look awesome in the costume. (And you can read more about the Marvel Comics version of Black Widow right here.)

Robert Downey Jr. confirms to MTV that Tony Stark will find himself in a love triangle between Pepper and Natasha with a “Heck yeah. Wouldn’t you?”

Downey also says the film will be staying away from the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline that dealt with Tony’s struggle with alcoholism in the comics. And I think that’s a good idea, because that’s a deep and complicated road to take in a movie that’s already got enough storylines going on. I’d much rather see more action and fun character stuff than something depressing and dark. (Director Jon Favreau agrees.)

Downey expanded on this during this interview with Entertainment Tonight. “The film is almost entirely about character, and yet we still have twice as much action as we did last time, so it’s going to be nuts. Essentially, Iron Man 2‘is about looking behind the armor, or the armature, of a superhero. It’s one thing to say you’re Iron Man. It’s another thing to be fully ready to do that.”

Being ready involved putting back on all of the muscle he’d dropped to play Sherlock Holmes, which he also talks about — along with some comments about the crazy shape Scarlett’s getting in — in the E.T. piece.

(Favreau has some humorous fitness comments here.)

Let’s move on to some other casting. While it had previously been reported that Tim Robbins would play Tony’s father, Howard Stark, in a pivotal flashback, Robbins told Reel Talk that it’s just “an internet rumor.” But then he says the things he’s working on now are secret, so who knows?

What we do know is that the villains this time will be played by Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell.

Rockwell, who was amazing in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and basically every other thing he’s ever been in, plays Justin Hammer, another industrialist whose rivalry with Tony Stark might be more than just corporate. Go here to see Rockwell in character at a rehearsal with Favreau.

And as you read the rest of the article at that link, you’ll see that Mickey Rourke finally sealed a sweet deal to play the film’s anti-Iron Man muscle. His research took him to a Russian prison, and you can read (and see) all about that here.

If you want to keep up with Iron Man 2 faster than I can, these are the bookmarks I frequently hit:

Director Jon Favreau’s Twitter feed

Iron Man 2 coverage at MTV’s Splash Page

Iron Man 2 coverage at Superhero Hype

I can’t wait for this movie. The first one is massive amounts of fun, and it sounds like they’re going bigger and better for the sequel.

Iron Man 2 arrives at a theater near you on May 7, 2010!