Now, if you're looking for an egalitarian world in which everyone is paid an equal wage for an equal day's work, you're probably not looking for Hollywood. The movie industry has always been a place where fame - and financial guile - have rewarded a select few with vast fortunes, while other equally prominent and hard working professionals simply make do with a living wage. The 1990's did their very best to change that, steadily ramping up salaries for prominent actors, writers and directors in a cinematic arms race - but time soon told, and wages have since settled back down to slightly more restrained figures.
With the very biggest movies, though - like, say, 2012's $1.5 billion grossing The Avengers - there are surely still some pretty darned massive salaries to be found. The big question that raises, though?
Just How Much WAS The Avengers Cast Paid?
Well, as it turns out, not as much as you'd think... with one key exception.
Y'see, while the movie may have over made $1.5 billion worldwide, that was by no means seen as a lock before release. Between such relatively low expectations, and a cast that had been relatively low profile before signing their initial Marvel Studios contracts, Marvel was actually able to keep things remarkably tight when it came to salaries. So much so, in fact, that:
Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Hawkeye All Made Less Than $3 Million A Piece
A figure that, according to THR, included their back-end deals - meaning the quartet's initial salaries were likely far lower. Which means that the likes of Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner - stars of lunchboxes the world over, all - each made only around 0.2% of The Avengers' eventual gross in salary. Now, those totals - and in particular the back end percentages - were apparently substantially increased by the time Avengers: Age of Ultron rolled along (with the actors now having all of that box office success to negotiate with), but, even so: That's got to have taken at least a little of the shine off of the film's overwhelming box office success for its lead actors...
Black Widow And Nick Fury Made A Whole Lot More
To be more precise, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson's salaries were rumored to come out at around $6 million a piece - with the two more established actors evidently having been able to negotiate slightly more financially advantageous arrangements. What's more, with Johansson's salary reportedly rising to closer to $20 million for Age of Ultron, the pay gap between Black Widow and her co-stars has only widened since their first team-up adventure.
With the likes of Hemsworth and Evans having also been paid closer to $200-300 thousand a piece for their first solo movies, it's clear that there's a damn good reason Marvel Studios took the risk of casting relative unknowns for some of its biggest heroes...
Of course, as it turns out...
Robert Downey Jr. Made A (Rather Large) Fortune Playing Iron Man
Specifically, in the wake of Iron Man's surprising box office success, Downey Jr's reps at CAA were rumored to have renegotiated his deal with Marvel to include both a large initial fee and something along the lines of a 5% stake in Marvel's revenue from future movies featuring his roguishly charming face - a deal that included The Avengers. As such, with Marvel ultimately banking a huge sum of money from The Avengers, the deal reportedly saw Downey Jr. walking away from the movie with between $50 and $70 million. Which, in case you're wondering, is roughly twice as much as the island nation of Tuvalu's GDP.
Now, on the one hand, that actually makes a fair amount of sense (Downey Jr. is arguably Marvel's most important star, and when negotiating in the wake of Iron Man's release was in an incredibly strong bargaining position), but on the other, is... well, pretty darned astonishing. After all, RDJ's salary ended up being substantially more than the rest of the cast and crew were paid combined - a disparity that even his prominence in the movie and undoubted excellence in the role would struggle to justify.
That, though, is ultimately just opinion, trailing in the wake of an extremely lucrative business deal, the moral merits of which can be discussed elsewhere. The big question it most certainly does raise, though?