Recently the wages of the cast of Avengers Age of Ultron were published and there were some surprising revelations. Despite all the noise about the gender gaps, the real loser is actually a little bit green.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves. Marvel's payments to its superhero actors actually make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jnr's Tony Stark is paid the most. But he has been there from the start. So has Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, which brings her second on the table for best paid Avengers. Captain America follows next, then Hawkeye and finally The Hulk.
Mark Ruffalo is an incredibly talented actor. His has brought softness and intellect to Bruce Banner that contrasts perfectly with the big green rage monster. I was also a big fan of the blossoming yet tragic love story between Bruce and Natasha too.
Yet it's not Mark Ruffalo who is the biggest loser of the recent wage announcements.
It's this guy:
Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk did not quite gel with audiences, but it is still officially part of the MCU. I personal only found the CGI to not work so well, but Norton was great in the film and Tim Roth was a sizeable villain. It was a great Hulk film. Yet when the Avenger's call up came, somewhere innegotiations Norton stepped away from the role.
He was quoted as saying at the time of The Avengers' casting announcements, "It seems it won’t work out for me. I sincerely hoped it could happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn’t turned out as we all hoped." Later, he would say the commitment to these type of blockbuster films would be too much for him.
But just imagine. What if The Incredible Hulk had worked out to be a massive hit?What if Norton had found his golden place among Marvel's executives, and continued to reprise the role for The Avengers and The Age of Ultron? Following how the current Avengers wages have panned out, had he stuck around Edward Norton could be commanding a sizeable salary, particularly with the news that Hulk will team up with Thor in the next Asgardian adventure.
Perhaps money is not a main driving force for Edward Norton's film career. And as a result of not committing to the long term nature of the Marvel Studio films, he has given some superb recent performances in Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Norton may not even think twice about his decision now. It's very likely he has happily moved on with his life and that one time foray into the superhero world is just a distance memory.
But I know, at least if I was Edward Norton, I would have that nagging thought in the back of mind always asking, "Well, what if... what if I did stay..." We'd definitely not have Mark Ruffalo in the role, and Norton could be one of the highest paid actors in the world.
Who is the better Bruce Banner/Hulk?
Daniel Sanguineti is a Australian Film Producer and Writer, who tutors film and media at the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology. He is on twitter @DanSanguineti.