by Brett White
If you’re going to enter contract negotiations with big ol’ companies like Disney and Marvel, it would help to have about $600 million worth of worldwide box office in your corner. Thankfully for Robert Downey Jr., he has a lot more than that. And thanks to “Iron Man 3’s” ridiculous $175.3 million opening weekend, he’s proven that he’s worth whatever amount of money he asks for to suit up again as Iron Man.
On May 6th, a select group gathered at Spago to celebrate the runaway success of “Iron Man 3”; included among them were Robert Downey Jr., his wife and producing partner Susan Downey, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, “Iron Man 3” director Shane Black and Disney Studio head Alan Horn. The Hollywood Reporter states that the meal also kicked off the first real shaky period for Marvel Studios since its inception: re-signing its biggest star to appear in more films.
“Iron Man 3” fulfilled Downey’s initial contract, meaning that Downey’s involvement in films like “The Avengers 2” and “Iron Man 4” are up in the air. It’s still assumed that Downey will return for the Avengers sequel, but “Iron Man 4” isn’t a certainty. We may have just seen the final act in what could be an “Iron Man” trilogy.
Since Downey’s Iron Man is the most lucrative character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (THR states that “Iron Man 2” outgrossed “Thor” by 39 percent and “Captain America: The First Avenger” by 69 percent worldwide), it seems like it would be a no-brainer for Disney to give Downey whatever he wants to return. But not so fast. Ever the cunning businessman, Downey made sure that his previous contract included what THR reports as a slice of Marvel’s first-dollar gross from every movie in which Downey appears as Stark. That means that for a film like “Marvel’s the Avengers,” which went on to become the third most successful film of all time, Downey’s payday easily hit the $50 million mark. With “Iron Man 3” on an almost-“Avengers” level trajectory, he could see that big of a paycheck again.
It’s hard to imagine Downey accepting a contract that doesn’t include hefty paydays like that, so it’s safe to assume that any new contract would have to be even more attractive to the bankable star. And so the actor and the company enter into a game of chicken. Marvel has recast roles before, replacing Ed Norton with Mark Ruffalo for “The Avengers” and Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle for “Iron Man 2.” THR also reveals that they apparently used the threat of recasting when negotiating Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Evans’ sequel appearances. So yeah, Marvel’s up for playing hardball.
But when it comes to Downey, who is not only synonymous with Iron Man but an actor with a proven ability to generate ridiculous amounts of revenue, is recasting really an option? They’ve only got a few more months to figure this out, because “Avengers 2” starts shooting in early 2014.
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