Star Wars. James Bond. Harry Potter. Commercially, these are three of the most successful ongoing franchises of all time, with each grossing billions in box office revenue. Until recently, they all sat comfortably atop the table of the highest-grossing movie series ever. But no more.
In just ten short years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe – the collective name for all Marvel Studios’ superhero movies – has blown them all out of the water. Marvel’s $17 billion-plus haul, in fact, equals the total box office of series 2 and 3 in the franchise rankings (Star Wars and Potter) combined.
With all that cash coming in for the house of Marvel, you better believe somebody is getting paid – especially when the films themselves are now costing upwards of $200 million. And when a decent chunk of a blockbuster’s budget typically goes to the star, it’s sensible to expect the headliners are seeing hefty paycheques.
The salaries on Avengers: Infinity War are harder to nail down, though. On the one hand, the film’s budget, as part of a package deal with Avengers 4, was reportedly a whopping $1 billion. On the other, the film has no one big star, but rather a whole gallery of them, collected from all over the Marvel universe.
The Infinity War cast list is enormous, with the principle players from Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Dr Strange, Spider-Man and Black Panther all gathered in one place. So who, exactly, gets paid what?
Here, we break down the reported salaries for the main cast members of Avengers: Infinity War, with some making less than you expected and others making way, way more.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Marvel lowered salaries along with expectations for Ant-Man, taking into account the much-ballyhooed production problems and considering the title character is little-known outside of comic book circles. But $300k for Paul Rudd in the starring role, on a film that had a budget of somewhere between $140-170 million, seems almost like an insult.
Still, Rudd will have taken a sizeable percentage of the profits when Ant-Man made a healthy $519 million worldwide, and you can expect him to have made far more than a $300k base rate on Ant-Man and the Wasp.
So far, Marvel doesn’t seem to have figured out how to best use Jeremy Renner or his character Hawkeye, so far one of the few ‘main’ Avengers not to have his own standalone film.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Marvel forking out to keep Renner around. Hawkeye’s screen time remains short, but Renner is making more with every MCU movie, taking between $2 and $3 million for Avengers Assemble, and $6.1 million for Age of Ultron.
Introduced late in the game compared to the other ‘main’ Avengers, Mark Ruffalo is in the strange position of playing a character who got his own standalone film – 2008’s The Incredible Hulk – without having starred in that standalone himself.
As a result, so far Ruffalo has always starred in support for Marvel, and so has been taking less than, say, any of fellow Avengers the Chrises (Evans, Hemsworth, Pratt), all of whom lead their own Marvel films. For Avengers Assemble, Ruffalo took $2-3 million, with $2.8 million being thrown his way for Age of Ultron.
Perhaps the great breakout star of the MCU, Tom Hiddleston went from anonymous to superstar almost overnight thanks to his turn as Loki in Thor. With Thor being Hiddleston’s first blockbuster role, however, Marvel got the actor cheap: just $160,000, to play second fiddle in a film that was budgeted at $150 million.
With a current net worth of $20 million, however, and with multiple further Marvel appearances since then including a lead villain role in Avengers Assemble, you can bet Hiddleston has been paid much higher fees in subsequent MCU movies.
Before Don Cheadle replaced him in the role as James Rhodes, aka Rhodey, aka War Machine, Terrence Howard was set to make $8 million to reprise the role in Iron Man 2. This was after Howard had already made $3.5 million for Iron Man (that’s $3 million more than Robert Downey Jr made for the film), and his contract stipulated the pay would increase by a cool $4.5 mil for the sequel.
When it came down to it, however, Marvel didn’t want to pay out, and so took the role to an actor who would be willing to star for less. Enter Don Cheadle, who accepted $1 million to play Rhodey.
A virtual unknown like Hiddleston prior to landing his part in Thor, Chris Hemsworth – again, like Hiddleston – had the fee to match. Despite leading the film in the title role, Hemsworth was paid just $200k for Thor, plus a percentage of the profits (which should still have been a pretty penny considering the film took $450 million in theatres globally).
Marvel is paying Hemsworth a good deal more now he’s a superstar, though: for the last Avengers before Infinity War, Age of Ultron, Hemsworth received $5.4 million, while his earnings in 2017 totalled $31.5 million.
Since the actor only had one film out that year – Thor: Ragnarok – we can assume that’s a combination of a generous leading man salary from Marvel along with a decent cut of Ragnarok’s unexpected $854 million haul.
Like many of his fellow Avengers, Chris Evans’ Marvel salary has been steadily rising with every movie. For the first Captain America, Evans netted $300,000. That jumped to $2 million for the first Avengers movie, followed by $3.2 million for Captain America sequel The Winter Soldier.
Evans’ fee has climbed since then, with his Winter Soldier take more than doubling for Age of Ultron – he made $6.9 million for the second Avengers movie – but he’s still proving great value for Marvel. In both 2015 and 2016, Forbes named Evans the best value actor in Hollywood, raking in $135.80 for studios for every dollar Evans makes.
Reports are mixed on how much Scarlett Johansson actually makes for playing Natasha ‘Black Widow’ Romanoff in the Marvel films, of which she’s appeared in six so far. She had scored $400k for Iron Man 2 and $6 million for Avengers Assemble, and it had previously been claimed that she would take home $20 million for Age of Ultron.
However, other sources have disputed this, saying Johansson is making as much as her MCU co-stars Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth. This would bring Johansson a pay cheque of between $5.4 million and $6.9 million for the second Avengers film.
Still, luckily for Johansson, it has also been reported that, should a standalone Black Widow movie be made, she will bag $25 million, making her the highest paid actress in Hollywood.
If Tom Holland’s fees are anything to go by, Marvel is beginning to get more generous. Where Chris Hemsworth took home $200k for starring in Thor, Holland made $250k just to make a cameo in Captain America: Civil War.
To lead his own film, the $880 million-grossing Spider-Man: Homecoming, Holland bagged an impressive $1.5 million. Still, that’s nothing compared to what Robert Downey Jr got for appearing in just eight minutes of the movie: $10 million, or more than $1 million per minute of screen time.
Like Tom Holland a relative newcomer in the world of Hollywood as well as a newcomer to the MCU, Chadwick Boseman isn’t making Johansson or Evans money just yet, but his first appearances as Black Panther didn’t bring him chump change either. For his Civil War cameo, Boseman took home $700,000.
For Black Panther, meanwhile, Boseman will have taken an even more impressive salary: $500,000 up front, plus a percentage of the film’s profits, and given that Black Panther’s box office take was an enormous $1.3 billion, Boseman will now be sitting pretty.
He may be one of the best-paid stars in Hollywood right now – for 2016’s Passengers, Pratt made a reported $12 million – but when Marvel made his name with the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Chris Pratt was little-known (outside of the Parks and Recreation fanbase) enough that the studio started him with a standard lead newcomer salary.
It’s rumoured that Pratt made around $1.5 million for the first Guardians, with most of that coming from the back-end deal on the film’s surprisingly high profits. Considering Pratt’s stature nowadays, you can bet his Marvel salary has since jumped closer to eight figures.
Robert Downey Jr
In ten years, Robert Downey Jr has gone from Hollywood pariah to global superstar, and from earning, believe it or not, $3 million less than Iron Man co-star Terence Howard for his (and, indeed, the) first Marvel film to being paid astronomical fees by the studio.
Taking just $500,000 for the first Iron Man, which went on to gross $580 million worldwide and establish the foundations of an entire franchise, RDJ has since gone on to amass a fortune for playing Tony Stark.
For Iron Man 2, Downey took $10 million. For both Age of Ultron and Civil War, he took $40 million. For Avengers Assemble and Iron Man 3, he took $50 million apiece. And for Infinity War and the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4, Downey will take home – wait for it – an estimated $200 million, which is comfortably the highest single payday for any actor ever.