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Iron Man 2: Robert Downey Jr. returns as superhero

Iron Man 2: Robert Downey Jr. is joined by Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, and Don Cheadle in the sequel to the 2008 superhero blockbuster.

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Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Pepper Potts, who Stark promotes from assistant to CEO of his Stark Industries. At the same time, Stark needs to solve the mystery behind new character, Russian villain Ivan Vanko, played by Mickey Rourke.

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Rounding out the new cast is Scarlett Johansson, sporting red hair as The Black Widow, and Sam Rockwell as weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer. Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard in the role of Lt. Col. James Rhodes.

Rourke was enlisted to play Vanko (a.k.a Whiplash) as he was coming off his own career resurgence with Golden Globe and BAFTA best actor awards last year for "The Wrestler."

To prepare for his role, Rourke took a trip to Russia, visited prisons there to understand how their system worked and studied the art of prison tattoos. He also worked with a dialect coach to learn the Russian language.

Meanwhile Johansson went through months of stunt, weight, strength and endurance training. Yet the actress told Reuters Television she really wasn't prepared for how difficult it was to portray the "unwavering confidence" of the Black Widow.

"When the cameras are rolling, you're thinking 'This girl can't flinch," said the actress. "You suddenly become overwhelmingly self-conscious. Overcoming that was a bit of an obstacle. After the first take you say, 'Pull it together Johansson, you've got some ass to kick.' Then you just do it."

With this cast in place, Downey Jr. said he "felt a little bit like a co-manager of a baseball team that just got an even better line-up in the spring."

(Additional reporting by Phil Furey; Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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