Iron Man 3 ends Robert Downey Jr.'s four-film contract to play Tony Stark, and with the actor's tough-talking agents and lawyers facing off against Marvel - a studio that readily subbed Mark Ruffalo for Edward Norton (and on a lesser note in his own franchise, Don Cheadle for Terrence Howard) - no one's been sure if the two parties could agree on a number that would get Downey Jr. back in the metal suit for Avengers 2. Marvel's President of Production Kevin Feige added to the uncertainty when he told Badass Digest that if the deal-making soured, the worst case scenario for the Iron Man character is that “we James Bond it.”
In the midst of the uncertainty, Robert Downey Jr. was still showing up on set to shoot Iron Man 3. When the 47-year-old actor hurt his ankle in August, causing production to be halted for several weeks, it fueled speculation that the two-time Oscar nominee might decide against committing to several more years on an action franchise. At an early press day for Iron Man 3, Downey Jr. spoke openly with Screen Rant about his still-pending deal with Marvel and the possibility of his replacement—“I'm sure they've thought about it,” he said—but confirmed that he'd love to keep playing Tony Stark, and that the negotiations were going well. Said Downey Jr., “I like being a company man.”
“I feel like I got sold to Disney for $4 billion dollars,” he joked. “It's been very humbling because I always realize that you're just kind of part of this thing, you know? And I think the problems begin when any one person involved in particularly anything that's successful decides that they have some sort of ownership to it, because really, this is something that Stan Lee scratched down going on, what, 50 years ago now.”
As for the tone of the talks, Downey Jr. was remarkably candid about why he was initially reluctant to return to the franchise before thinking hard about what the hit character had meant to his career.
"I was annoyed for a while about, you know, you have a contract where in success, very little changes for you and then they make all this dough. But then I think about it and it's like, 'What was I really doing before I got Iron Man?' Then I go, 'Don't lead with that, Robert! That's not where we are! You're a big prime mover!' And I go, 'Yeah, yeah, I get that. I could talk about that for two hours. But let's look at what really happened here.'
So I'm a big believer in: I don't like leverage, I don't like negotiating. I like being really straight and saying, 'Okay, let's really look at this.' I'm not going to pretend I'm over it and whatever. I mean, obviously it's better to have a contract run out then it is to have one go on indefinitely—I guess that's why contracts have limits on them. Let me just say me and the agents and the lawyers are having a bit of a ball right now. 'You pinch me! No, you pinch me!'”
Though Downey Jr.'s reportedly $50 million paycheck for The Avengers (which includes back-ends and bonuses) will wind up being roughly 20 times higher than Marvel's reportedly $2-$3 million deals with Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo, he stressed that he's not that nasty of a negotiator.
“I don't like this whole, and I think it's a particularly Western thing—well, not any more because we're kind of being out-paced by the East, business-wise—but that thing of, 'We got 'em—now let's screw 'em to the floor!' It's like, is that what gets you off? Making people feel bad? 'Ugh, they really put the screws to us, brother?' Weren't we excited about the future a couple years ago and now we're just laying the boots to each other? It's just so disgusting. I'm an artist!”
Besides money, Downey Jr. pointed to his personal reasons for continuing to play Tony Stark.
“There's, to me, that kind of wish list or grab bag of things. 'We haven't been able to get this in the movie yet—maybe this time we'll get to---!' or whatever. I put so much onus on Iron Man 3. Iron Man 3 was supposed to answer all the questions for the audience, cure all of my uncomfortable moments in the past with playing this character, and get in every idea that fell by the wayside in the last three movies. And then we shot the movie and I still feel there's a couple other things we've gotta do.”
Happy to hear that RDJ wants to keep playing Tony Stark?
Be sure to also check out:
- The latest Iron Man 3 Trailer
- Iron Man 3 Extended Footage Preview
- The NEW version of The Mandarin we'll see in the film
- Our Iron Man 3 armor guide
Iron Man 3 will be in theaters on May 3, 2013.
Follow Amy Nicholson on Twitter: @TheAmyNicholson