When Robert Downey Jr said that Marvel was ‘p*ssed’ he made $50 million for Avengers, called himself a ‘strategic cost’
Robert Downey Jr was the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for many years, but there came a point when he clearly understood what he was worth.
Robert Downey Jr came close to quitting the Marvel Cinematic Universe on one major occasion. After the success of Iron Man 3 in 2013, and without a contract in place for future Avengers movies, Downey staged a renegotiation that partly played out in the public.
The actor said in an interview that Marvel was ‘pissed’ that he ended up making $50 million on the first Avengers film, and hinted that he might be done with the MCU if it wasn’t worth his while. This happened at a time when most major Marvel actors were said to be displeased with what was being offered to them.
Asked point-blank if reports of him having made an astronomical figure for the Avengers were true, Downey told GQ, “Isn’t that crazy? They’re so pissed. I can’t believe it. I’m what’s known as ‘a strategic cost.’”
Recalling the injury he suffered on the sets of Iron Man 3, the actor added, “It got me thinking about how big the message from your cosmic sponsor needs to be before you pick it up. How many genre movies can I do? How many follow-ups to a successful follow-up are actually fun?”
Director Joss Whedon, who helmed the first two Avengers movies, went on the record and told Deadline that Marvel ‘can be cheap’ when it comes to compensating their talent. “Marvel can be very cheap, God knows. They can also be sensible and frugal,” Whedon said, but added, “They have a very small infrastructure and they’re not heaping this money on themselves. I don’t know a producer who’s done more and is paid less than Kevin Feige.”
While Downey got what he asked for — his salary would only increase with future MCU films — the rest of the cast also made a case for why they deserved a hike. Thor actor Chris Hemsworth and Captain America star Chris Evans weren’t pleased with the paltry $500,000 increase they were offered for the second films in their respective franchises, and Black Widow actor Scarlett Johansson had reportedly told her castmates that she would not be slashing her quote for Avengers 2. She would later sue Disney over the release of 2021’s Black Widow film.
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But Marvel no longer has a very small infrastructure anymore. The studio has produced the highest-grossing film franchises in history; the MCU has made more than $26 billion worldwide, and has made its stars some of the richest in the world.