Downey Jr.'s Cut Dwarfs Other Avengers' Take
Could Be More Than $50 Million
Published: 05/17/2012, Last Updated: 05/18/2012 03:21am
Robert Downey Jr.’s payout from Marvel Studios’ smash hit The Avengers could reach upwards of $50 million, a level of compensation that is certainly not out of line by Hollywood blockbuster standards, but which totally dwarfs the amounts earned by Downey Jr.’s fellow Avengers. According to inside sources quoted by The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Chris Evans (Captain America) should end up making $2-3 million with bonuses, while Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson could take in roughly twice that amount.
While six million is a pretty good payday, it’s eight times less Marvel Moolah than the amount the actor playing Tony Stark will bring home. According THR after Iron Man earned $585 million worldwide in 2008, Downey Jr.’s agent negotiated a deal that gave the actor a 5-7% slice of Marvel’s take on future films featuring Iron Man.
Big payouts for charismatic stars in major franchises are hardly unknown in Hollywood. Johnny Depp has earned in excess of $250 million for the four Pirates of the Caribbean films in which he starred. What is interesting about The Avengers situation is the fact that it is the notoriously frugal Marvel that is making the payouts. While Marvel did what it had to do to lock down Downey, Jr. (see "Downey, Jr. Re-Ups With Marvel"), the studio sent a major message when it replaced actor Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes (War Machine) in Iron Man 2 (see "Don Cheadle Replaces Terrence Howard"), and kept the compensation for key supporting roles like those played by ScarJo and Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 at the very low end of the Hollywood talent pay scale (see "Marvel Slashes ScarJo's Payday").
Marvel Studios’ frugality makes sense not just for the studio’s bottom line, but also in view of the kind of films that Marvel wants to make. Performers’ salaries could become a major stumbling block for superhero team-up movies. As constituted for the movie, The Avengers team includes seven major performers. If they all received compensation at the level of Downey Jr., the movie would have to earn an Avatar-like $2.2 billion just to break even. As the lead actor in Marvel Studios’ break-out film Iron Man, Downey Jr. was able to strike a very good deal for himself—and considering the fact that director Michael Bay took home $80 million for helming the first Transformers movie, the $50 million for Downey Jr. looks like a pretty good deal for Marvel too, especially since most of that money results from the fact that the movie was an absolute worldwide smash and wouldn’t have been paid out at all if the film had been an abject failure like The Green Lantern.
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