You got to hand it to the Film News Media. They gave Marvel a couple days to bask in the $174 million domestic opening for Iron Man 3 (which brings the worldwide gross to $711 million) before it started addressing the big humongous elephant in the room. The honeymoon is over, however, because Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline all had articles yesterday speculating on the future of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man.
Iron Man 3 was the last film that Robert Downey Jr was contracted for, and negotiations are set to begin for at the very least Avengers 2 and 3, if not more Iron Mans as well. But Downey might not be just negotiating for himself. The actor, who supposedly got anywhere from $50 million to $80 million in back-end money from gross points for The Avengers, might be fighting to get his co-stars in that film, some who made as little as $200,000 for their work, a little better payday.
While this might not seem like an unreasonable demand (after all, The Avengers made $1.5 billion worldwide), you have to consider that Marvel is run by the notoriously stingy Ike Perlmutter. Perlmutter’s frugality helped Marvel rise like a phoenix from its bankruptcy to become a vibrant company once again. But he did so by cutting expenses to the bone, including getting rid of everything he deems unnecessary, from booths at comic book conventions (which only came back when the Marvel films started gaining popularity) to extra bathrooms in Marvel offices (only one per gender).
In Downey’s favor is the fact that his three films earned almost $850,000,000 more than any of the other solo Avengers movies combined, a fact that many pundits attest to Downey’s popularity here and overseas.
However, Marvel hasn’t been shy about replacing troublemakers, especially those clamoring for more money. The studio replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2 when Howard asked for more money. And it was rumored that Edward Norton’s penchant for taking a hands-on approach with the script and directing of The Incredible Hulk made him expendable for The Avengers.
Add to this the fact that Downey will be turning 50 by the time Avengers 2 rolls around and 53 if Avengers 3 follows the same release pattern. You figure that Marvel isn’t going to want Downey to play Tony Stark for ever, and if you are going to replace him, why not now?
All this adds up to what sure will be one fascinating contract negotiation. It will probably have more action and excitement than Iron Man 3 (which isn’t saying much).