TORONTO -- Don Cheadle is ready to helm his own action-hero franchise.
The versatile actor dove into over-the-top combat sequences for his role as the heavily armoured superhero War Machine in Iron Man 3, opening Friday.
With rumours flying that this instalment is the last in the bombastic franchise, Cheadle admits he's wondering whether that opens the door for a War Machine spinoff.
The House of Lies star plays a bigger part in the latest Marvel spectacle, battling bad guys side-by-side with Robert Downey Jr.'s wisecracking vigilante Iron Man.
They're up against an army of biologically enhanced warriors controlled by a mysterious terrorist played by Ben Kingsley.
Cheadle notes his amped-up presence is spurring speculation he's the next Hollywood star to launch a superhero franchise, and he's happy to stir up interest any way he can.
"I'm talking about it all the time," Cheadle says with a chuckle Tuesday during a promotional stop in Toronto.
"But Marvel has yet to say anything that would concretize that talk."
Iron Man 3 picks up right after the wild alien attacks of The Avengers, when billionaire tech genius Tony Stark teamed up with other superheroes, including the Hulk, Thor and Captain America, to stop an other-worldly invasion.
Still reeling from that encounter, Stark finds himself up against another global threat and turns to pal Col. James Rhodes, played by Cheadle, for backup.
Cheadle says there was lots of improvisation for their lighthearted exchanges, which harken back to the easygoing banter of '80s-era buddy cop films.
He says that nostalgic touch can be traced to writer-director Shane Black, who penned the first two Lethal Weapon films and perfected the action-comedy formula.
"(Black) understands that genre very well and it's something that makes those films very winning and funny -- to be in the middle of this danger and still these characters have the ability to rib each other and clown each other and that's something that makes this movie a lot of fun," says Cheadle, whose more serious fare includes Hotel Rwanda, Flight and Traffic.
Still, the film notably features an eerie explosion sequence in which a mysterious villain known only as the Mandarin sets off a bomb at a popular tourist haunt to inflict as much damage as possible.
It's a devastating scene that calls to mind the recent Boston Marathon bombings, Cheadle acknowledges, but he hopes the storyline can be cathartic in some way for audiences grappling with feelings of uncertainty.
"Obviously, it couldn't have been anticipated, but (this film is) post-9/11, it's a post-World Trade Center bombing, it's a post-(USS) Cole bombing, it's a post-everything that's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan," he says.
"If we can play with the fantasy of the sky opening up and aliens pouring out, I think the ballast to that is what's actually really happening around us. I think we can hold both of those dynamics and still tell a story."
One of the hallmarks of the Iron Man franchise has been its willingness to put Tony Stark in a world very much like the one that actually exists, Cheadle notes.
"I think it's good that our art, so to speak, is able to draw from things that are actually happening and anchor us in the world that we actually live in today."
-- The Canadian Press