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How much the Avengers are actually worth

Who is the wealthiest among Earth's Mightiest Heroes? In their ranks, the Avengers have Thor — a god with unlimited power but little in the way of real estate holdings. There's also Black Panther, a king with substantial reserves of an extremely scarce commodity, and Iron Man, a self-described "genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist." Of course, it's also worth mentioning the 90-year-old army captain who may have some mature war bonds ready to be cashed in just in time for retirement. It's hard to say which heroes have the most zeroes in their bank book, but we can make a pretty accurate estimate of how much our favorite MCU actors are pulling in based on reports that are out there.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most profitable film franchise of all time. With Disney Studios at the helm, its 20 films (and counting) have grossed more than $15 billion in worldwide box office revenue. What Disney pays the actors portraying our favorite Marvel characters — or more accurately, how and when they pay them — may surprise you, however. Let's take a look at just how much the actors who play the Avengers are actually worth offscreen. 

Disney Studios & the MCU

Disney famously employs a progressive growth pay structure that offers relatively low payment up front, with rewards on the back end and with future movies. Disney has banked on the idea that the intellectual property is more important to the moviegoer than the actor behind the mask — at least in the early stages. When Variety listed the salaries of some of the most popular actors working in Hollywood, it mentioned some 20 films and the paydays associated with their stars. None of the movies on the list came from the biggest, richest studio in Hollywood — Disney.

Disney has been able to stay at the forefront of the superhero genre, raking in billions without necessarily backing up the Brinks truck for the first-billed cast — relatively speaking. Of course there are some actors in the MCU who, after proven success and several leading roles, eventually received contracts that matched their Marvel-sized star power. Robert Downey Jr., for instance, enjoys the richest contract and biggest paydays of any Avenger, and deservedly so. Not only is Downey an incredible, charismatic actor, but the argument can be made that he is in many ways responsible for getting Marvel Studios off the ground in the first place.

Phase One

"People forget Iron Man was an independent movie," said Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, in an interview about the studio's origins in 2007. Avi Arad, then Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Studios described how important Downey's casting was during those early stages, recalling, "We needed a Tony Stark, and Tony Stark needed to be cool. You know, Hollywood likes them to be 26 and cut, but Tony Stark was not a young kid. He's like a young adult that has a complexity in the story, and then we got very lucky. We ended up with Robert Downey Jr."

At a time when the superhero genre was thought to be already on its last legs, Iron Man opened huge and launched what would become known as Phase One, the initial slate of movies that set the baseline for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But did Downey have even more to do with the pitch-perfect tone of Iron Man than simply being superbly cast?

I am Iron Man

Jeff Bridges, who co-starred in Iron Man as Obadiah Stane a.k.a. Iron Monger, has said in interviews that Downey, the principal cast, and director Jon Favreau basically came up with the script on the fly. "They had no script, man... They had an outline," said Bridges. "We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn't know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, 'You got any ideas?'"

Since then, Downey has appeared in multiple MCU movies as Iron Man. In Forbes Magazine's list of highest paid actors for 2018, Downey came in third, with an income of $81 million. That includes an estimated $15 million upfront for his supporting role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He earned several times that amount for Avengers: Infinity War. It's rumored that Downey was paid $200 million total for that film and its sequel, Avengers: Endgame. That's a long way from the reported $50 million he received for appearing in The Avengers, and even further from the $2.5 million he was paid for the original Iron Man.

Chris Hemsworth

The brotherly squabbling between Tom Hiddleston's Loki and Chris Hemsworth's Thor is the heart of the Thor franchise, but did a real-life sibling rivalry help Chris get cast as Thor to begin with? According to Hemsworth, he blew his first audition for Thor, only to see his younger brother Liam get callback after callback for the role. When it eventually became clear that Liam wouldn't be cast, Chris tried again, recording a second audition tape while on location filming Cabin in the Woods with his future Avengers director Joss Whedon. This time Chris nailed it, and claimed his rightful title as God of Thunder.

Forbes' list of highest-paid actors placed Hemsworth fourth in 2018, with an income of $64.5 million. That number includes his earnings from the blockbusters Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. The original Thor, from Marvel Studio's Phase One, reportedly paid the actor just $150,000.

Chris Evans

In 2018, Chris Evans finished filming his tenth MCU outing as Captain America — Avengers: Endgame. This entry in the Avengers series is slated to be Chris Evan's final appearance in the MCU, according to multiple reports that were (potentially) confirmed by a tweet from Evans himself. "Officially wrapped on Avengers 4," the star tweeted. "Playing this role over the last 8 years has been an honor. To everyone in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the audience, thank you for the memories. Eternally grateful."

Evans leaves the role considerably wealthier than he was when he started. He was paid $1 million for Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, but in 2018, Forbes listed him as the 10th highest paid actor in the world. He reportedly earned $34 million over the preceding year, largely from portraying Steve Rogers in Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Thanks for your service, Cap!

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson has appeared in multiple Marvel films, but will finally be getting the largest payday of her career with her leading role in the upcoming Black Widow standalone movie. Johansson is reportedly set to make $15 million for her appearance, matching (or at least quite similar, reportedly) to what Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans received for Avengers: Infinity War.

The film is said to be set before the events of the Avengers films, and will follow a chapter of the character's journey from Russian spy to superhero. Johansson received a "low seven-figure" salary for her work in the first Avengers movie, after making her MCU debut in Iron Man 2 in 2012. Black Widow doesn't have a release date yet, but is slated to begin filming in 2019 — a start date that would seem poised to make it the second female superhero-centered film to be released by Marvel following Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, set to be released March 8, 2019.

Brie Larson

Brie Larson was cast as Captain Marvel fresh off her Best Actress Oscar for Room. Needless to say, a star of her caliber brings not only a well-known name, but an expectation to the MCU. Kevin Feige, speaking to Vanity Fair, said of the casting, "Captain Marvel has powers that far surpass many of her heroic counterparts, and in order to bring this superhero to life and make her relatable and disarming we needed an actress with both range and humanity." 

Bringing her pedigree to the role of Captain Marvel gave Larson some leverage at the negotiating table. She reportedly earned $5 million for the movie — a large paycheck for an opening lead vehicle in the MCU. It's also been reported that Larson's high-dollar deal includes a seven-picture commitment that locks her into multiple franchises for the foreseeable future.

Benedict Cumberbatch

The MCU has steadily added star power as it's grown in scope — narratively as well as in terms of box office — and Benedict Cumberbatch offers a distinguished example. During their exhaustive casting process, Marvel looked at many actors with similar levels of celebrity, ultimately passing on Ethan Hawke, Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto, and Ethan Hawke. Before he landed the gig, Cumberbatch was nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Imitation Game and was quite well known for his work on Sherlock.

Cumberbatch was reportedly paid $3.2 million for appearing in Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnorok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame total. Like many of his Marvel counterparts, that comparative early bargain will reportedly lead to a raise — he's said to be making just under $10 million for the upcoming Doctor Strange 2, which is scheduled to begin filming in 2019.

Mark Ruffalo

In 2012, Bruce Banner finally became science bros with Tony Stark in The Avengers. But Mark Ruffalo was in a very different position entering the film, portraying a character that had his own Phase One standalone — 2008's The Incredible Hulk — without having actually played the role himself. As a result, Ruffalo earned a rumored $2 million for The Avengers, and $2.8 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron. That salary increased for Avengers: Infinity War to a rumored $5-6 million. The CGI Hulk is one of the most expensive characters to bring to the screen, but Ruffalo earns a relatively modest payday for playing his human counterpart — at least compared to the other Avengers.

Could a standalone Hulk film raise Ruffalo's asking price to RDJ's level? Not likely. According to Ruffalo himself, a solo Hulk film isn't anywhere close to being a reality. Following a D23 Panel in 2017, Ruffalo commented on the subject. "I want to make one thing perfectly clear today," Ruffalo said. "A standalone Hulk movie will never happen because Universal has the rights to the standalone Hulk movie and, for some reason, they don't know how to play well with Marvel. And clearly they don't like money. But I feel like I have two or three years before I'm too old to play the Hulk."

Jeremy Renner

Most of the Avengers signed contracts for at least six movies. It's been said that Jeremy Renner's contract covers minimally six films, likely with a solo movie in there somewhere. However, there is currently no Hawkeye (or Ronin) standalone film in any stage of production. In fact, we haven't seen Renner in an MCU film since Captain America: Civil War's cliffhanger of an ending. Hawkeye may have been out of his league in Infinity War's cosmic-level event, but his no-show did not go unnoticed by fans.

Kevin Feige said of the internet's interest in the glaring absence of the linchpin Avenger, "There are a lot of 'Guy with bow and arrow jokes.' He even makes 'Guy with a bow and arrow' jokes in some of the movies, so I love that people go from 'Oh, Hawkeye is just lucky to be there' to 'Oh where is he? He's not there? What's going to happen? We need Hawkeye. We want more Hawkeye.'" For the first Avengers film, Renner was rumored to have made at least $2 million, with a bump up to a (completely unconfirmed) $6 million for Age of Ultron. We can assume that after taking Infinity War off, Renner is likely in line for another pay raise in his hotly anticipated return to the franchise in Avengers: Endgame.

Paul Bettany & Elizabeth Olsen

Paul Bettany has been a professional actor for more than 20 years. With an estimated net worth of $20 million, Bettany's resume has some impressive credits, like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code. When Bettany joined the MCU in 2008's Iron Man, it was as the voice of Tony Stark's Super Siri, J.A.R.V.I.S.. He reprised his voice acting in the rest of the Iron Man series, as well as Age of Ultron. In the latter film, Bettany transitioned into the role of Vision, becoming a full-fledged Avenger. Not much is known about the details of Bettany's MCU double duty contract, but Bettany has joked about his jealousy of Robert Downey Jr.'s compensation. Speaking to Hollywood Outbreak, Bettany quipped, "I like my character, but I'd love Robert Downey Jr.'s profit participation." 

Elizabeth Olsen made her MCU debut in a mid-credits sequence at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She's gone on to portray the Scarlet Witch in three more films and is slated to appear in Avengers: Endgame. With mostly small-budgeted indies on her IMDb page, it's safe to assume that much of her estimated net worth of $5 million comes from her participation in the MCU. Olsen has been tight-lipped about her contract with Marvel, but she's made it known that she doesn't concern herself with the details. "I let the people that I hire do my contracts," she's said. "I would work for nothing and they know that."

Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson has starred in dozens of films during his prolific career. In total, his movies have earned just over $5.7 billion worldwide. According to Box Office Mojo, that makes Jackson the highest-grossing actor of all time. The two highest-grossing films on his list are The Avengers ($1.5 billion) and Age of Ultron ($1.4 billion.) His post-credits scene in Infinity War ($1.9 billion) doesn't count towards his total. Any way you look at it, Jackson knows how to pick a winner.

Jackson first appeared in the Marvel Universe as Nick Fury in a stinger at the end of Iron Man in 2008. When he initially signed on to play the role of the Avengers' assembler, it was for nine movies. Jackson is set to play a large part in the upcoming Captain Marvel, his ninth MCU film. Will he re-up with another contract? It seems likely, given that Fury is often the connective tissue in the far-flung stories of the MCU, but so far, no details have emerged. Jackson has an estimated net worth of $220 million. It's said that he received $4-6 million for the first Avengers film, and his long-term contract likely had built-in modest raises. With nine paydays under his belt, it remains to be seen how many more are in Jackson's future with the MCU.

Chadwick Boseman & Others

It should be noted that what an actor makes for each film and the details of their contract with a given studio are often at best unverified rumors and at worst spurious speculation. They come from lightly sourced rumors in industry trades and are often reported as gospel. It's definitely in the studio's interest to keep the truth under wraps to protect their negotiation power as much as possible. But we've heard the same stories repeatedly about the way Marvel pays its stars — the studio puts up a little collateral upfront, banking on the fact that the intellectual property will carry the box office and setting the stage for future large paydays. 

Other examples include Tom Hiddleston, who reportedly made $160,000 for Avengers, and Zoe Saldana, whose base salary for Guardians of the Galaxy is said to be about $100,000 before profit participation. Chadwick Boseman is said to have been paid about $2 million for his starring role in the billion-dollar Black Panther, with a well-deserved raise said to be on the way. Chris Pratt was reported to have earned $1.5 million for playing Star-Lord in the original Guardians, with a bump up to $5 million for Avengers: Infinity War. Paul Rudd, another actor with a well-known body of work, may have only received $300,000 for the first Ant-Man, but with total compensation on the back end likely much higher.