In an appearance Saturday on NPR's Weekend Edition, Terrence Howard interrupted his discussion of his new album with a Zen meditation on his recent departure from the Iron Man franchise. And if it seemed unusual last week that Howard might bow out of the blockbuster's sequel, leaving his role as Tony Stark confidante Jim Rhodes (and his own heroic alter-ego War Machine) to the capable, cheaper hands of Don Cheadle, the scenario didn't get any clearer as the actor wavered between the high road and calling Marvel Studios a scandalous gang of thieves and pimps:

TH: It was the surprise of a lifetime, you know? It really was. I was like, "Wait a minute, How did this take place?" There was no explanation, but it was gone. It was gone like life; it up and vanished. Then I read something in the trades that implicated it was about money or something. But apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren't worth the paper that they're printed on. [...] And now the challenge is not to be angry, but you just keep moving forward. You keep moving forward. Like a lot of Americans, I lost my 401(k), basically, because that was a very promising thing. But to have to keep working, that's even more promising. NPR: You've played pimps. Is there a difference between their business principals and the ones in Hollywood? TH: No. Promises aren't kept, and good-faith negotiations aren't always held up. You know? Even friendships, people you support. When it comes down to it, the only true support you have is the work that you've done — the laurels of your work and the ethics by which you stand.

For Marvel's part, president of production Kevin Feige first offered no comment to MTV News, later implying that even Cheadle isn't necessarily booked for the sequel: “As is the policy with most people, when you talk about dotting I’s and crossing T’s, certainly that isn’t the case yet on a number of things we’re doing. But that [Hollywood Reporter story] was not an announcement. That was, as it tends to happen in the business, is rumors and leaks and things like that. I do think there will be clarity soon.” No rush, Kev — only 18 months until Iron Man 2 opens, and Justin Theroux was desperately hoping to cut Howard's climactic, contractually obligated musical number anyway.