At Deadline today, Editor In Chief Nikki Finke has an extensive report on the contract negotiations for The Avengers 2, with a particular focus on Robert Downey Jr.’s quest to earn himself a bigger payday in the wake of Iron Man 3. She writes:
I’ve learned he’s already made $35 million from the actioner, which grossed $680 million worldwide in its first 12 days. He should exceed his biggest payday to date — that $50M from The Avengers which I’ve learned was more like $70M-$80M now that the film is all in. But it’s really Avengers 2 where he’ll clean up big-time — if he wants to reprise the role. He’s hinting to some media it may be time to retire Tony Stark. And saying to other outlets that Marvel better show him more money for Avengers 2. ”I don’t know,” he said on The Daily Show. ”I had a long contract with them and now we’re gonna renegotiate.” (“You are Iron Man! You are!” cheered Jon Stewart.) I’ve learned that Marvel and therefore owner Disney are going to run into big trouble on that sequel because the upfront pay, backend compensation, break-even points and box office bonuses aren’t pinned down yet for several big stars and castmates. This is major hurdle that Walt Disney Co Chaiman/CEO Bob Iger hasn’t even mentioned to Wall Street or shareholders though he’s already been hyping Avengers 2 for more than a year now.
First and foremost Marvel does not have Downey in place yet. ”They need him, and they don’t have him. He’s got a lot of leverage,” one insider tells me.
Whether Marvel needs Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man from a business perspective is one matter. Whether they need him for creative reasons is another one entirely.
Iron Man, released in 2008—a relatively recent date, though one that feels positively ancient given the changing role of superheroes in popular culture in general and Marvel’s dominance of this dominating genre in particular—was the first movie in Marvel’s current exercise in multiple-movie, multi-genre long-form storytelling. That didn’t necessarily mean that the character of Iron Man, inveterate tinkerer and playboy Tony Stark, had to be the cornerstone of that story. But he worked, in part because the funny, self-absorbed Tony allowed Marvel to run a wet rag over the very crowded chalkboard of prior movie superheroes. Rather than a blandly noble guardian in the mold of Superman, or a campy guy in a cape, as Batman was all too frequently on screen before Christopher Nolan got to him, Tony was a reluctant, self-interested hero, someone was more enamored of the badass nature of his trauma-acquired powers than interested in how he could use them for the greater good, who frequently made himself a target and ventured into the fray only when his interests were directly threatened.