The Avengers is smashing box office records left, right and center – making a lot of money for Marvel, Disney and Paramount Pictures. The $220 million budgeted adventure (at the time of writing) is closing in on $400 million at the domestic box office and it has already racked-up over $1 billion dollars at the global box office.
Now, stop for a minute and think about how much of that money goes to the stars of the movie. If you’re Robert Downey Jr. then you could be looking at $50 million… minimum.
The Iron Man star is set to score a proverbial king’s ransom for the movie, much more than his co-stars, who will be getting significantly less. Marvel is famously known for “low balling “ talent when they’re negotiating deals for their superhero films – Mickey Rourke was offered just $250,000 for his role in Iron Man 2 - however, the studio does seem to be lavishing cash on Downey Jr. Following the success of Iron Man in 2008 (it banked $585 million worldwide); the actor’s agents renegotiated his deal so that he would receive profit participation in any future movies where he played Iron Man - allegedly 5 to 7 percent of the box office gross. It must have seemed like a sweet deal then but even sweeter now when the grosses are doubled.
The rest of the cast aren’t so lucky. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson are said to be scoring an estimated $4 – 6 million apiece – once their upfront fee and box office bonus is combined. It’s still a lot of cash, but nothing compared to that of Robert Downey Jr. Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo will probably bank around $2 – 3 million each for their work on The Avengers. Again this is serious money – but not much when you take into account the billions of dollars the film will make once other ancillaries are added.
Usually, studios prefer not to give away any “first dollar points,” meaning that if a film makes, say $100 million at the box office, a “first dollar” person will score a percentage of that number. They usually prefer to pay out “net points,” meaning that the person will only get paid once it goes into profit after all deductions and costs have been taken away. Coming to America writer, Art Buchwald once famously filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures after the studio claimed that the Eddie Murphy starrer hadn’t made any net profit-even though it grossed $288 million worldwide. In 2010 Warner Bros, claimed that Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix was still $167 million in the red, after it had grossed $938.2 million globally.
Those who do manage to get first dollar gross participation often reap rich dividends. Johnny Depp is said to have made $250 million from the four Pirates of the Caribbean films, Michael Bay made $80 million from the first Transformers, while Jack Nicholson pocked $60 million for 1989’s Batman and Tom Cruise regularly takes home $75 million for his Mission: Impossible role.
They say that money makes the world go round. Well, it certainly keeps things going in Hollywood.