In Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr. (a.k.a. Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man) may have defeated the Mandarin, saved the president, and reunited with Pepper Potts, but perhaps his upcoming battle—the one that will lead to future adventures—will be the most interesting. Yes, Downey is facing off with executives from Marvel.
A series of reports, including one particularly juicy one from Nikki Finke of Deadline, explained how Downey is not locked in for any future films as Tony Stark, including the in-development Avengers 2. Downey received a massive paycheck from the first Avengers, which grossed over $1 billion. According to Finke, he took in $50 million for that film (which she says was "more like $70 million-$80 million now that the film is all in."). She says he should exceed that for Iron Man 3.
Borys Kit and Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter report Marvel is trying to woo Downey for those future films. A private dinner Monday at Spago in Los Angeles "kicked off a crucial period for Disney, Marvel and Downey" as they have now entered negotiations for his future in the franchise. It will be tricky. Downey has made, and probably wants, a lot of money to continue as Stark, but Finke explains: "Marvel and its famously frugal CEO Ike Perlmutter still give new meaning to the term stingy."
And just as Iron Man might be the ringleader of sorts for the Avengers, Downey is the ringleader for the Avengers cast, some of whom made much less than he did for the first movie and may not be eager to get suited up for the second if they don't get their payday. An "insider" told Finke that: "Some received only $200,000 for Avengers and Downey got paid $50 million. On what planet is that OK?" Meanwhile, she reports that some cast members aren't that excited even with the obvious box office potential. Chris Hemsworth reportedly groaned about having to bulk up for the second Thor installment, and Scarlett Johansson told castmates that she won't "cut her quote" for the Avengers sequel, meaning that she won't work for less than the highest she's been paid.
But Marvel is not afraid of recasting roles. Three actors have played the Hulk since 2003, for instance, but none of them wielded the power of Downey. Meanwhile, when Terrence Howard left the Iron Man franchise, money issues were mentioned as a reason.
Downey, meanwhile, has been coy about his future in the role of Iron Man. Take, for instance, his appearance last night on Jimmy Kimmel's show. He proposed starting a Kickstarter for Iron Man 4, given that he wasn't "getting a lot of support." It's a joke but Downey is, as the cliché goes, laughing all the way to the bank.
During Downey's visit at The Daily Show, he told Jon Stewart that he doesn't know whether he's going to keep going and now is the time when he's going to "renegotiate."
While Marvel and Disney could just give Downey the piles of money he wants, Marvel has been a tough negotiator, and they might surprise us all. Latino Review's El Mayimbe wondered on Twitter if Marvel might set "a precedent that they are a company that won't cave in to actor demands and severs the RDJ relationship." But if Downey goes does everyone else go with him? And does that mean that Marvel has to start from scratch when it comes to building up the clout it established with The Avengers? There's an interesting, and perhaps fraught road ahead.