With “Iron Man 3” already collecting $711 million at the global box office in its first two weeks, the question everyone wants to know the answer to is not only “when” but “if” Robert Downey Jr. will suit up as Iron Man for the planned sequel to “The Avengers.”
Though Downey would appear to have a lot of leverage when negotiating a new deal to star in “Avengers 2,” given the original pic grossed $1.5 billion worldwide, Deadline Hollywood reported Tuesday that the star and cast of the pic could be in for some hard-fought negotiations in the coming months. Marvel hopes to start production next year for a Dec. 2015 release.
Negotiations have not yet begun, and most of the cast were already in place for a sequel as part of their deals for the first film and previous Marvel projects. But Downey has hinted in numerous interviews, including a recent segment on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” in which he says his days of playing Tony Stark are over. He also added that if he were to return, he made clear he wasn’t about to take a pay cut.
But Downey could opt to move on, forcing Marvel to replace him. Marvel co-president Kevin Feige has said publicly he would replace Downey if need be.
If Downey walks away from “Avengers 2,” that could in turn spur a new round of renegotiations for the remaining cast, though they would not have much leverage considering whoever replaces Iron Man will not get close up to what they got from the previous installment.
And if Downey doesn’t suit up this time around, that doesn’t necessarily leave much room for renegotiation for other “Avengers 2″ cast members, either. Marvel has imposed a hard line on this front in the past; when Terrence Howard held out for more money after the original “Iron Man,” Don Cheadle was brought in to replace him.
Most insiders believe it would be very tough to have anyone fill Downey’s shoes given how important he was not just to “Iron Man,” but to sparking other Marvel franchises in general. But the same could also be said when Andrew Garfield was asked to replace Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker after Maguire had built a billion-dollar “Spider-man” franchise.
For all the attention the Downey-Marvel faceoff is getting, this really isn’t an anomaly as studio-star negotiations go these days. When the contracts for the main cast members of “The Hunger Games” were being negotiated, most of those main players were receiving quotes of $1 million or less upfront, with a lot of emphasis being put on the back-end results.
When the pic became a smash hit, the cast returned to the negotiation table expecting more money upfront. Lionsgate didn’t put up much of a fight; most of the cast came out with a higher quote including Jennifer Lawrence, who raised her salary from $1 million upfront to $10 million.
But at this negotiation table, Iron Man may find Marvel has nerves of steel.
VIDEO: Downey Jr. Talks ‘Iron Man’ Future With Jon Stewart