Marvel Cinematic Universe Actor Contract Talks

by on May 7, 2013

in Entertainment

Avengers 2 actor salary negotiations Iron Man 3 is the biggest movie to hit theaters since The Avengers and already the talks about contracts is starting to hit the presses.  Now is the time that everyone is focused on Robert Downey Jr..  Will he or won’t he continue in the mantle of Tony Stark? And who else is continuing their roles?

In an interview with Jon Stewart, when asked about staying with the role, Downey said he didn’t know.  And I say he’s just posturing for the contract negotiations.  But the contract dance is the dance.

Some sources question whether Downey wants to reprise the role of Tony Stark.

Though I dare suggest that’s not a sensible premise, considering the role is bringing him some of the biggest pay days he’s ever had.

Word is that Downey has the upper hand in renegotiation while some of his costars might not be in such strong positions.  Scarlett Johannsen is paid for her appearances.  Chris Evans made deals for a few movies when he landed the role in the sequel to Captain AmericaChris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson were apparently paid much smaller fees while looking for bigger upfront and back end fees with ongoing sequels.  IE: In The Avengers, Downey got $50M, while some of the cast received only $200k.

But I worry about how Disney & Marvel may approach this process.

Marvel Seems To Have a Scary Contracts Personality

In a piece over on Deadline Hollywood, it’s said that Marvel is known for some tough business tactics, referred to as “scorched earth” practices.  Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios president) is known for pushing how Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is redefining the movie business, and agents and such are indicating they’re tired of hearing that.  (I can’t say Feige isn’t wrong though.)

Chris Hemsworth in Thor The Dark World

Allegedly Marvel has some strong arm tactics to get actors into cheaper contracts.  But Hemsworth, threatened with being recast, said “go ahead.”  Apparently he isn’t totally fond of the diet and exercise regime required to look like a god.

(Rumors suggest he was ready to pack it up and head home right before he landed the role of Thor)

Aside from tactics, Marvel also allegedly has a reputation for being stingy.  One example was given in a report saying that Avengers was only nominated for one Oscar category because Marvel didn’t want to pay for an “awards season campaign.” (What ever that is)

But in the end, Joss Whedon says he’s pretty sure everyone will be on board, since this kind of movie franchise is something an actor can sink their teeth into and create something with these roles that can help alter the course of a career.

Disney already strong-armed movie theaters by renegotiating their opening weekend cuts with theater chains a mere few weeks before Iron Man 3 opened.  That didn’t feel right to me.  But then after IM3, a lot more didn’t feel right to me, but that’s another tale of confused whoa!

But Who Draws the Line Where?

On one hand, Avengers made billions.  On the other, if an actor asks for too much, what happens to that actor or his character?

I’m not a greedy sort and would love the premise of making oodles of money with each movie made.  Good income is a good thing.  And if you’re making enough, is it being greedy by going for more?  If you ask too much, then the fans lose.

But the movies are putting these faces on the screen and putting them in front of millions upon millions of faces, where otherwise, they might not have ever seen this kind of incredible exposure.

And there’s the initial investments Marvel made to create the movies.

The Avengers Black Widow blowing things up

It’s crazy.  I get that when the actors see a movie make billions, that they think Marvel should put a crowbar in the wallet and pry it open a little bit.  Then again, if Downey never landed the role, he’d still be dabbling in solid roles, but nothing this big.

Does the ensemble deserve pay raises?  Sure, we all should expect pay raises each year, but as a fan, I always fear talent pricing themselves out of a franchise.  Look what happened when (allegedly) Jon Favreau wanted too much to direct IM3?  Instead, we got Shane Black.

But negotiations could be tricky as new characters will be showing up in Avengers 2Word on the street is that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch will be showing up.  And folks are waiting for any kind of confirmation or denial for Ant Man, Wasp, Doctor Strange, Nova and whoever else might show up in the film.

With new characters showing up, the amount or impact of established characters could be lessened with new characters getting introduced.  Heck, if no one is careful, Avengers 2 could be an entirely new set of heroes!  Though that does seem pretty extreme.

But what’s most interesting, is that this kind of information about the negotiations has found (leaked) its way into the media and web.  There’s nothing like public persuasion to help an argument!

But as that is said… there’s the basics of the actor’s contract.  The various basic factors that go into actor negotiations include

  • Guild Minimum,
  • Upfront Pay,
  • Break Even Points,
  • Back End Compensation,
  • Box Office Bonuses &
  • Cash-Break Zero.

All basic aspects of an actor’s contract.  And I go into details about these different aspects over on a stand alone piece I put together about Actor Salary Contract Negotiations.

But for now, all we know is that fans are having their cages rattled hearing about this uncertainty about their favorite actors/characters in future movie installments.  We don’t like this kind of uncertainty.  But what can we do about it?

As consumers, we can threaten to never see future movies unless our favorite actors/characters are back.  But that’s seems like a tough call to make.  I can’t imagine fans NOT going to the next Avengers movie.

Hence, we’re at the mercy of the fates of contract negotiation, much like we were when Disney did that last minute renegotiation of their box office splits for opening weekends, just before Iron Man 3 opened.

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sources: various, including hollywoodreporter.

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