Robert Downey Jr. Put His Role As Iron Man ‘On the Line’ With Marvel and Fought To Get The Avengers More Money

Robert Downey Jr. played a larger role in shaping the Marvel Cinematic Universe than he gets credit for. Not only did Downey help launch the MCU with the success of 2008’s Iron Man, but he also went to bat for his fellow Avengers for equal pay. Here’s a look at how Downey convinced Marvel to increase everyone’s pay and kept the MCU from falling completely apart. 

Robert Downey Jr Iron Man
Iron Man himself Robert Downey Jr | David M. Benett/WireImage

Marvel refused to budge on contracts

Marvel has become one of the most successful studios in Hollywood. Its last three movies, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, for example, each made over $1 billion at the box office. But there was a time when Marvel’s stand-alone films were not nearly as successful.

Following 2012’s The Avengers, Marvel launched Phase 2 of the MCU with Iron Man 3, which earned $1.2 billion at the box office. But the studio’s next two movies, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, made around half of Tony Stark’s third outing.

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With Iron Man clearly Marvel’s most valuable franchise, the studio refused to pay Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo a higher salary for the next big crossover project, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Given the success of Iron Man, Marvel was willing to pay Downey pretty much whatever he wanted. But the studio wanted to keep everyone else’s salary at around $200,000.

Age of Ultron was almost certain to break the $1 billion mark, and inside sources claim that Downey was willing to do whatever it took to get his co-stars better pay.

Robert Downey Jr. put is role as Iron Man ‘on the line’

With most of the cast of Age of Ultron only taking home $200,000, Screen Rant reports that Downey urged Marvel to reconsider their salaries. For comparison, Downey reportedly made $50 million for his role in Age of Ultron.

At the time, Hemsworth was coming off a disappointing outing in The Dark World and was reportedly thinking about leaving the MCU altogether. Johansson, meanwhile, was determined to get more out of Marvel and did not want anything to do with the project if the studio didn’t budge on contracts.

Fearful that things might quickly unravel, Downey reportedly went to Marvel and urged them to pay everyone better salaries. Sources say that the actor put his own role as Iron Man “on the line” and refused to back down.

Given all the money Iron Man made Marvel, the studio agreed to Downey’s requested and paid the cast a competitive salary. Age of Ultron, of course, went on to become another success and made $1.4 billion in ticket sales.

If Downey hadn’t stepped in, who knows what Phase 3 of the MCU would have looked like.

Robert Downey Jr. is the one who convinced Ruffalo to join the MCU

As if fighting for his co-stars wasn’t enough, Ruffalo recently revealed that Downey played a huge part in convincing him to join the MCU. According to Cinema Blend, Ruffalo says that he was unsure about playing Hulk because he did not think he was right for the part.

But that all changed when Downey called him up and told him that he should jump at the chance in “true Iron Man fashion.”

“And then I got a call from Downey, it must’ve made it to him that I was hemming and hawing, and he just simply said, ‘Ruffalo, let’s go. We got this,’ in true Iron Man fashion. And then after that, I was like, ‘I guess I have to do it,’” he shared.

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While Downey clearly played an important role in the success of the MCU, the actor bid farewell as Tony Stark in Endgame. Downey is set to enjoy one more cameo as Iron Man in Johansson’s upcoming film, Black Widow, but that will likely be his last appearance in the MCU.

That said, there have been plenty of reports that Robert Downey Jr. is negotiating a new contract with Marvel and will eventually return as Iron Man. Marvel has not said anything official about the rumors, but fans would definitely enjoy seeing Downey return at some point.