A decade after Robert Downey Jr. won $50 million for the first avengers, stepping into a superhero costume remains one of the last ways an actor can earn a big payday. With rare exceptions, even A+ stars no longer earn what they used to, as first-dollar deals and massive backends are nothing but Hollywood tradition.
And, more often than not, iconic characters like Spider-Man and Batman are seen by studios as more important and valuable than the famous movie stars who play them. A veteran Marvel star could win the big prize when she’s in costume – sources put it at between $20-25 million, matching what Disney trumpeted paying Scarlett Johansson during their dispute settled since on the day and date Black Widow Release. Florence Pugh, already nominated for an Oscar when she appeared in Black Widow as Yelena Belova, will get eight characters for her next two Marvel films, including leading the villain-centric ensemble cast Love at first sightwhich is due out on July 26, 2024. But that level of pay rarely translates into other roles these actors take on.
Superhero paydays vary wildly based on experience. A first superhero role has stayed in the six-figure range for the past decade – and a director new to the Marvel or DC Universe will also make six figures for their first superhero feature. These costs can reach two to five times those of a suite director.
That means a first-time Marvel director won’t earn a higher salary than they would for any other studio fare. Says one rep, “You do it because you want to make a Marvel movie.”
Meanwhile, others related to comic book universes don’t see these numbers. Over the past year, the plight of comic book writers and artists has come to the fore, thanks to creators speaking out about derisory sums they were offered.
Devin Grayson, the writer who co-created Yelena Belova in the late 90s, released her salary in July, revealing that she had only received $5,000 of the promised $12,500 for use. of the character in Black Widow. (After THR published a story showcasing its claims, Marvel agreed to pay the remaining $7,500.)
Fees for TV shows are even lower than for film adaptations (comic book writers and artists generally receive a flat fee and no residuals). Grayson was offered just $300 per episode of Hawk Eye starring Yelena, while a co-creator of a main character from a CW show has yet to receive any payment for the series. They fear they may never receive their compensation due to complications from the Warner Bros. merger. Discovery.
Writers and artists are usually hesitant to create characters for Marvel or DC because they won’t be entitled to the riches if those characters become the faces of billion-dollar movie franchises. Many go the independent publisher route (think: The old guard Where The Walking Dead), where they can make more favorable deals when it comes to keeping their intellectual property. Although the vast majority of indie comics don’t start enviable bidding wars (according to sources, the average option for such a book is between $5,000 and $10,000), these creators retain more control over their properties and may find other ways to earn films, such as being asked to write a screenplay.
Despite the ups and downs of the genre, recent years have shown that even stars seemingly retired from tights can be lured back into their Lurex. Michael Keatonwho famously exorcised his superhero history with his Oscar-nominated role in birdman, came out of batman retirement for a trio of roles: the next the flashan appearance in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (although it could have been cut) and bat girl.
Keaton received $2 million for bat girlthe $90 million movie that Warner Bros. Discovery eventually shelved, after participating in about a week of work, described by sources as a glorified cameo.
For Keaton, donning the Batsuit is perhaps the closest thing a star has to living like Bruce Wayne. A negotiator says, “If you want to get paid, you have to put on a cape.
This story first appeared in the October 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.