Marvellous Misers: A Comic Compendium One-Shot

When will the rest of the Avengers get their share? Ed tells us why Robert Downey Jr. could fund small countries. 

I recently told you all about the comic book-related films currently in the works, and gave you all the juicy tit-bits in one wonderfully written package. You may also remember that I mentioned Marvel’s cast are having salary problems. I know it’s the Internet and every jackass out there wants to share their opinion, but I’ve been startled by how many folks there are out there whining about how the cast are overpaid and should stop complaining, and how they should be grateful to have the jobs they have. I can’t help but think how small minded and “99%”-influenced this all is.

An expanded bit of background is that Robert Downey Jr. has been paid millions for his appearances as Tony Stark in both Avengers Assemble, for which he received an estimated $50 million on the back-end, and Iron Man 3, where he received a $35 million salary straight up. This is compared to his Avengers castmates who received nearer $200,000-500,000 per film, although they also made around $2-6 million each due to the success of Assemble and their own films.

How times change. Back when Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008) was in production, Terrence Howard was the highest-paid cast member, and he’s not even around any more. Downey, whose drug-laden history made him difficult to insure, was paid a mere $500,000 for first appearance as ol’ Shellhead. Let that sink in for a moment.

Yet it isn’t just the amount of money that the cast are complaining about, but the discrepancy between the amount that the majority have received compared to Downey Jr. It appears, however, that Downey himself also feels this is unfair as he has come out in support of his castmates’ plight, and is effectively blackmailing Marvel into splashing out the cash on the other stars so they also retain his services for future movies.

Marvel has a track-record in removing actors who they feel aren’t cost-effective, with the aforementioned Howard being replaced with Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine for Iron Man 2, with an almost 50% pay drop for the switcheroo. Rhodes was quite a minor character in the first film, so when it came to swapping actors, we weren’t quite as invested then as we are now after multiple entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The company has been notoriously stingy with the cash ever since entering the movie business, refusing to budge with contract negotiations and insisting that people work their way or the highway, as Marvel can claim to be one of the most successful studios out there. They have yet to release a flop, although I think this only counts in respect to revenue, as I would argue with this after having seen The Incredible Hulk.

Personally, I think it would be absolutely disastrous to change any of the actors, not only because of how much I would hate not watching Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson in their wonderful costumes, but also because of how the general public would feel to this change. I love the characters of Thor and Black Widow because of how I feel about the comics, too, and I partially love the films because of how they relate to the source material. But if the Average Joe has never read a comic, then he doesn’t care if Malekith the Accursed or the Winter Soldier are being included, but if Thor and Captain America are no longer recognisable. Why should we care about these characters and the idea of a shared universe if the faces keep changing? Swapping the actors would surely reduce the franchise’s revenue, and if the films are no longer profitable they will no longer be made. I wouldn’t want to see a Thor without Hemsworth, but then I wouldn’t want the Cinematic Universe to end.

In a way, this kerfuffle should have put a lot of people’s fears regarding Marvel’s independence to rest after the buy-out by Disney, as their top people have refused to make any sort of comment about these salary disputes, insisting that Marvel only “co-ordinate” with them and that the latter are dealing with this themselves. They’re just the Empire to Marvel’s Emperor.

I would also like to point out that Jeremy Renner’s problems with Marvel are not exclusively linked to salary, as he allegedly made disparaging remarks about Hawkeye’s role in Avengers, which he saw as limited. Maybe Joss should have released that extended cut.

So it all boils down to money. Inevitably. It’s hardly a surprise, but some responses to it have been absolutely ridiculous, calling the castmembers “money-grabbing” and “selfish.” But people should be aiming such slights at a studio whose last two films have made a billion dollars each.

Every single member of the core Marvel cast has proven that they are more than adept at their roles, and the amount of money that these films have generated for the studio is astounding. To use the example of Hemsworth again, Thor achieved $50 million more than Snow White and the Huntsman, which he also appeared in, yet he was reportedly paid around fifty times less for his role as the God of Thunder. If you could take a job that paid fifty times that, I am fairly certain that you would take it. So this wage increase is not even unfair, as he wants a wage that is equal to the other jobs he can take. Someone like Samuel L. Jackson certainly doesn’t have to take part if he’s not earning enough. If studios only pay pittances, they will not get the actors they want and the ones we need for these roles. Marvel may want to save money here, but to prevent reducing the quality of the films, then believe me, it’s worth splashing the damn cash…

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