That Inevitable Money Battle Between Marvel and the Cast of The Avengers 2 is Here…

Marvel Avengers Assemble - European Premiere - Inside Arrivals

Let’s face it, we knew this was coming sooner or later. Marvel is notoriously cheap (or frugal, if you want to put a nicer face on it) about paying their cast. The idea about actors doing a Marvel movie has always been about the potential — do a Marvel movie for cheap, get popular, then parlay that into big paydays on other films. Chris Hemsworth, for instance, got $5 million for “Snow White and the Huntsman”, but only after “Thor” made him a household name. But how much did he make for his two Marvel movies combined? Only his agents know for sure, but it’s a good bet it ain’t anywhere close to $5 million.

So with Joss Whedon hard at work on the “Avengers 2” script and Robert Downey Jr. running around telling everyone and their momma that he grossed over $50 million (though some numbers have it more around $70-$80 million) for that one movie, the rest of the “Avengers 2” cast are wondering: “What about me?”

The Avengers (2012) Movie PosterTurns out, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans weren’t all that enthusiastic about doing sequels for “Thor” and “Captain America”, respectively, and because of that, it took some re-negotiating to get them to come back. The end result is that the two actors, while they might not be making bank up front, will be getting plenty on the back-end. Or at least enough to get them to return.

(As an aside, this is why I groan and roll my eyes when I hear movie sites making declarations that so-and-so has to do x-amount of movies because “they’re signed for them”. Yeah, they’re signed for them, but it doesn’t mean they have to actually do those movies. This is the movie business, it’s not slavery, you know. There’s a little thing called “renegotiation”, and even if that breaks down, studios aren’t going to demand an actor show up on a movie set if they don’t want to. Can you imagine how much fun that would be for everyone?)

With “The Avengers 2” still a long way off (well, two more years, anyway, though given the heavy prep, production, and post-work on something like “The Avengers 2”, everyone will probably have to be at work by 2014), Deadline currently has a very thorough article about the current situation. For the tl;dr crowd, the bullet points are this:

Everyone except Robert Downey Jr. (and director Joss Whedon, who it’s said will be making somewhere around $100 million for all of his encompassing work with Marvel when all the paychecks are counted), are getting pretty sick and tired of being paid cheap wages by Marvel, especially in light of “The Avengers” making a gargantuan $1.5 billion bucks worldwide. And that’s just theatrical. Domestic DVD sales on the film are already pushing just south of $100 million. That’s just domestic.

Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers (2012) Movie Image

“Seriously? $50 million or more? Dude, who’s your agent!”

Word is, everyone’s agent is banging down Marvel’s doors to get a bigger paycheck for their client, with Marvel doing what Marvel usually do — not budging, threatening to re-cast, and budging, but only a little bit. The big issue for them is getting RDJ back as Tony Stark/Iron Man, since Downey Jr. has fulfilled his contract with Marvel and is now, as they say, a free agent. To that end, THR reports that there was recently a sit-down between Downey and the Marvel big-wigs, with the two sides trying to come to terms on a deal that would bring RDJ back for not just “The Avengers 2”, but also “The Avengers 3” and “Iron Man 4”.

Bottom line, I still think “The Avengers 2” will happen, even if not everyone from “The Avengers” returns. How many Avengers do you really need in “The Avengers 2”, anyway? Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and … well, that’s pretty much it. The SHIELD people are pretty interchangeable, even Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. In fact, it might be a good idea to ditch the SHIELD agents and introduce other “agents” instead, and I’m sure Marvel is making just that point to the non-essential personnel on the film.

(By the way, the Avenger who might not be so quick to get into a fight about money with Marvel? Mark Ruffalo. After all, he’s the third actor to play the Hulk. Marvel’s already proven they really don’t care about re-casting the Green Goliath’s human alter ego…)

Here’s Downey Jr. recently on the Daily Show talking about his now-finished contract with Marvel: