Even War Machine can't believe the hype machine.
Don Cheadle has an Oscar nomination, a pair of Golden Globes and a string of acclaimed performances in critical darlings and big-screen hits, but he's never seen a buildup like the one for "Avengers: Endgame," which finally hits theaters Thursday.
"I've never been a part of something that has this much anticipation, where fans are this rabid for it," Cheadle, 54, told the Daily News. "They're so into these characters, and they're so knowledgeable about who they are and what the relationships are and where this thing goes."
It hasn't gone in a straight line for Cheadle's character of Lt. Col. James (Rhodey) Rhodes -- aka War Machine. But now in his seventh movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cheadle says there's no question where his character's loyalty lies in the Avengers' fight with the all-powerful Thanos.
"I think more than anything, he's just sort of accepted his place, and not as sort of a reticent accepting it, but really sort of grown into being someone who feels like he belongs with the Avengers," Cheadle said of his character, which he began playing nearly a decade ago in "Iron Man 2."
"Earlier in Rhodes' start in this universe, he kind of had one foot in both camps," Cheadle explained. "His allegiance to the military, and having to be somebody who was a leveling force for Tony (Stark) and trying to bring him down to earth when he wanted to skirt the rules and laws. And even in 'Civil War,' he was always on the side of, we have to do this the 'right way.' I think now he has fully embraced his role with the Avengers and knows that it's going to be up to them."
The stakes have never been higher for Earth's Mightiest Heroes than they are in "Endgame." The film comes on the heels of last year's "Avengers: Infinity War," which ended with Thanos killing half the universe with the snap of his fingers after obtaining the six Infinity Stones. Spider-Man, Black Panther and Dr. Strange were seemingly among the casualties.
"Endgame," directed by Marvel veterans Joe and Anthony Russo, is a movie 11 years in the making, with the previous 21 flicks telling the interweaving stories of dozens of heroes and villains.
Fans scrambled to the internet when opening-day tickets went on sale. Some have since been listed for resale for thousands of dollars.
War Machine and other surviving Avengers including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Black Widow have been centerpieces in the film franchise for most of the past decade. But speculation about the future of these characters continues to run rampant.
Meanwhile, newer additions to the series including Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Ant-Man have earned large followings in recent years.
Although the fates of the heroes -- both those living and those turned to dust after Thanos' snap -- are uncertain heading into "Endgame," Cheadle says it feels like a changing of the guard is happening to an extent.
"Yeah, somewhat. There's a passing of the torch," he said. "There's an infusion of new blood and new players, and they are taking up the mantle. It just speaks to the longevity of this franchise and where else it can go. What happens if they have reached the end of their thing, and the new family that comes in and keeps it going, I think this is going to be here for a while. I think Marvel's here for a while."
War Machine is a soldier who has beat the odds and bounced back countless times. With his state-of-the-art suit of armor and explosive weapons, his formidable physical strength matches his mental fortitude.
The actor has taken his own stands, voicing his support for important causes on social media and wearing a shirt that read "Protect Trans Kids" during his hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live" in February.
"The people that are being champions for those who are fighting to have their voices heard were this way before the movies," Cheadle said. "The movies and the sort of attention gives you a bigger platform and allows you to turn conversations sometimes toward those issues that you want to speak about when people turn the lights on and put a camera in front of you and a microphone in front of you.
"I was speaking out about stuff when nobody was listening," he explained.
For all the action that occurs in the Marvel movies, Cheadle admits with a laugh that people might be surprised to learn how mundane the film sets can be.
"There's a lot of sitting around," he said. "If Boggle is exciting for people, to watch people play Boggle, then they would be excited to come to set, because it's a lot of what's happening between takes. ... It's not as glamorous as people would think."
But playing War Machine has been a wild ride for Cheadle, who relished doing his own stunts during his long stint in the role.
"Just playing a character for nine years, that in it of itself is something that's just unbelievable," Cheadle said. "That this has gone on this long. ... I've done two series during the time that I've been on this movie. A lot of things change, but ... the constant of coming back and seeing these same people ... we really have a good time together and respect one another and are very collaborative."
This article is written by Peter Sblendorio from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.