Doing Business With Marvel Studios

Curious about the dealmaking process between Marvel Studios and its talent? Here's how they sign actors and actresses for their super hero franchises and why they prefer hungry young actors.

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By Mark Julian - 2/22/2013


/Film has a great breakdown of how Marvel Studios does business which is a little atypical of how traditional movie studios sign actors and actresses. Below is a summary of their report.

The Traditional Method
Directors and producers meet with prospective candidates who test for roles and then they meet with agents to hammer out the finer points of a deal. That's pretty much how any contract negotiation process happens no matter what entertainment venue it happens to be.

The Marvel Method
At Marvel Studios, things are a bit different. Before someone can even test for a role they sign a contract which spells out what they're going to make and how many pictures they're signed up for. So all those actors and actresses you hear are up for roles like Star-Lord and Drax, they've already signed a contract with Marvel. The sticking point is that the deal isn't 'active' unless they're ultimately chosen for the role. This is a lot like the contracts TV actors sign during pilot season. Right now, Guardians of the Galaxy is the main Marvel film casting so what's happening is that Marvel already has deals with all the names being mentioned, they simply have to make a selection. This deals are notoriously lowball figures (respectively speaking) and that has led to Jason Momoa deciding that he doesn't want to be Drax the Destroyer after all. What Marvel is banking on is that actors will sign on for the exposure and use their new found fame to land big paydays elsewhere i.e. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. It's why you'll always see unheralded, previously unheard of actors signed up for the roles that require multiple film appearances. This deal structure even (sort of) applies to their big name actors like Robert Downey Jr. but unlike his younger Avengers, Downey's deal is backloaded, meaning he receives a portion of the film's earnings and is how he took home a cool $50 million from The Avengers. And when you hear talk of Downey's contract expiring after Iron Man 3 and his desire for a big payday, he's referring to switching his contract around to a frontloaded structure where he receives his pay upfront, regardless of the film's box office performance. We'll have to wait and see how Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios handle this but I have full confidence that they'll work something out.




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Source: /Film
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DioFoRio - 2/22/2013, 6:04 PM
shit talkin in...5.....4.....3.....2.....1
95 - 2/22/2013, 6:17 PM
I just read this over at /Film. I recommend people read that full article before commenting here. Marvel Studios' films are a stage to a worldwide audience for these actors. It can't be about the money, rather the exposure (if I understand correctly). Actors hope to reach the worshipping fanbase Tom Hiddleston acquired (and the Gifs and memes that followed).

For us, I would say that this is good. If I'm understanding correctly, Marvel Studios has their actors' balls-in-a-vice, which should equate to continuity. Also, I definitely don't sympathize for the actors... most of the time I hear complaints about actors being "overpaid". And... maybe some of that money will go to proper VFX and 3D-conversions that Marvel Studios have (shrug).
thorhulk77 - 2/22/2013, 6:23 PM
Interesting
lostrojo - 2/22/2013, 6:24 PM
i dont care just deliver good movies haha
Silentman - 2/22/2013, 6:25 PM
that's actually very interesting and makes a lot of sense being that most of these guys were up and comers when they started out in their films.
tazmaniak - 2/22/2013, 6:27 PM
It actually makes sense to initially offer lowball figures. This isn't like signing up for a single film. Signing up for any individual Marvel movie is not only signing up for that particular franchise, but possibly any other film in that universe.

And with any sequel, salaries are raised with each film, because returning actors get paid more money to return. So, you're going to run into some issues if you start out offering big salaries and then having to keep upping them for each actor in each subsequent film.

And these films do give actors recognition and make them more popular/visible than they were before. So it's an interesting strategy for the studio and the actors to use the films as a way to get the actor bigger salaries. You may not get paid that much for the role, but if the movie you're starring in makes an a$$load a money, you're definitely going to get a lot of offers with bigger pay.

The thing about Jason Momoa kinda disappoints me. I really like the actor, but he hasn't been elevated to a place where he commands a hefty paycheck. Why not do this film for whatever they offer and if he kills it in the film, he's going to be out there. He's going to be mainstream. He'll have his pick of roles and probably a bigger salary.
BlackHulk - 2/22/2013, 6:28 PM
Hmm so Marvel is bypassing the best actors for the job and settling for the cheapest and most desperate actors? Oh well.
Mrcool210 - 2/22/2013, 6:29 PM
thats actually a good buisness method there, it actually reminds me of how comics used to be, there was the normal method and then there was the marvel method
TheFascinatingMan - 2/22/2013, 6:29 PM
*these deals
bazinga85 - 2/22/2013, 6:31 PM
Take some points warner brothers. Marvel studios knows how to make movies.
MarkJulian - 2/22/2013, 6:32 PM
On one hand, you're doing the heavy lifting in a big summer blockbuster that's practically guaranteed to pull at least $500M. Of course you want a significant portion of the revenue. It's the same mentality in sports with baseball and basketball players.

On the other hand, there's what Marvel can do for your career elsewhere. You may not get the big payday or highly prized acting role from them but they can be a stepping stone for that.

I can see both sides of the argument, honestly.
OtakuPapi - 2/22/2013, 6:35 PM
The thing about cbm if you pull off the role the fans really get behind you and put butts in seats for your next up coming movies!
TheSensationalSpiderman - 2/22/2013, 6:36 PM
This pretty much says why DC has better actors in there films.
ToTheManInTheColdSweat - 2/22/2013, 6:39 PM
as long as i get epic marvel movies i'm good, they can chain them mother[frick]ers down and pay them peanuts for all i care.
ToTheManInTheColdSweat - 2/22/2013, 6:40 PM
lmbo, jason momoa passed on drax? dafuq??? gaddamn how low was their [frick]ing offer for jason momoa to pass on it. i am actually shocked.
tazmaniak - 2/22/2013, 6:41 PM
@BlackHulk, no, they're not bypassing the best actors for the job and settling for the "cheapest" and most desperate.

They more or less offer all the actors who are up for a particular role the same amount of money. And they go with whomever they feels fits the role and nails the audience. So, Chris Pratt was probably offered the same amount of money that was offered to Jim Sturgess, Joel Edgerton, Jack Huston, Lee Pace and Eddie Redmayne. And he won out. No one was better or cheaper and more desperate than anyone else.

I mean, if that were the case, these movies would have failed. So far, they have been on the money with all their key castings. So, apparently it works.
sameoldthing - 2/22/2013, 6:44 PM
The methods do not matter,just the end result & so far Marvel movies have been casted really well.

So far so good..I actually like little known actors in character roles so they don't bring the baggage of other films.

Big name actors are not needed unless there is someone just perfect for the role.
That's very rare really but RDJ is the best example.
Tymminator - 2/22/2013, 6:45 PM
It's actually pretty smart.
YoungThanos - 2/22/2013, 6:46 PM
Meh....just show me the shark tank of lawyers that are working on getting all of Marvels rights back!
AsgardianJustice - 2/22/2013, 6:48 PM
This type of business move is brilliant for Marvel Studios. The actors get exposure and they understand going into their first film that if they work there butts off and make a great movie then they will be rewarded long term.
Shamo - 2/22/2013, 6:51 PM
@batman27, exactly. well, not all of DC. just Nolan's films.
MrEko - 2/22/2013, 7:03 PM
Oh well, It wasn't like my highly impossible dream of Daniel Day-Lewis as Dr Strange was ever gonna happen.

I guess this deal is squarely for the lead characters, because Marvel has had some great a-list actors on supporting characters (Lloyd Bridges, Guy Pearce, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Samuel Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci etc.) Pretty sure none of 'em settled for a low ball salary.
Tymminator - 2/22/2013, 7:03 PM
I've heard no official word that Momoa is not takin the role anywhere. This is the first I've heard of it.
jj72 - 2/22/2013, 7:03 PM
Not very smart on Momoa's part. Its not like Conan and Bullet to the Head were a success. Seems like his head got bigger working on these two films. His lack of movie cred reminds me of Taylor Kitch in a way and thats not good company to be in.
Jollem - 2/22/2013, 7:08 PM
@MARVELPSYCHO79 - yes...back pain. that's the ticket :)
marvel72 - 2/22/2013, 7:19 PM
@ Batman27

"This pretty much says why DC has better actors in there films."

marvel have quality actors in their movies as well.

-jeff bridges (oscar winner)
-anthony hopkins (oscar winner)
-ben kingsley (oscar winner)
-natalie portman (oscar winner)
-gweneth paltrow (oscar winner)

oscar nominated

-robert downey jr
-edward norton
-don cheadle
-terrence howard
-tommy lee jones
-mickey rourke
-jeremy renner
-tim roth
-samuel l jackson
-stanley tucci
-mark ruffalo

yeah they just hire crap.(rolls eyes)
arashini - 2/22/2013, 7:20 PM
That is actually incredibly clever. MCU has these guys locked in for a shit-ton of films on a low paycheck (save money, and guarantee not having to replace actors --most of the time). And the actors get an incredible career pushes from these films.
MrEko - 2/22/2013, 7:24 PM
In Jason Momoa's defense, I don't think signing up for a character that would have you in prosthetics and whole body paint throughout the entirety of the movie, would boost your mass appeal/exposure. It's kinda what happened to Mickey Rourke in Sin City, he had a great awesome performance as Marv but the average movie viewer had no idea it was Rourke under the prosthetic and makeup. The movie did little for his popularity.... hence you can expect the same with Momoa.

@FreakingIntelligentRobertGriffin, Ah I see. That makes sense. It's either that or Marvel had some serious dirt on those folks, lol.

RyGoR - 2/22/2013, 7:25 PM
I am truly disappointed if momoa is out but whatevs bring on the next guy! I like Marvel's strategy like all my fellow comrades have pointed out its gonna be long term going the hero route big payday is long term and the exposure also if you or I were an actor I mean why not??? Being a super hero is almost my every thought lol

On a side note (and really random) Ron Perlman for Groot!!!!!! \m/
ahhmynuts - 2/22/2013, 7:27 PM
yeah big money spread over years like sports contracts. some athletes get paid $100 million but its over the course of 10-8 years. in this case it'd be over the course of film appearances. of course these upcoming actors are probably significantly less but still same idea. some will be back loaded, front loaded, guranteed, incentive based etc.
titansupes - 2/22/2013, 7:27 PM
I think other studios do the signing the actors before selection, too. I don't know how wide spread it is, but I remember Joe Manganiello talking about how he couldn't even screen test for Man of Steel, because pre-screentest you have to sign a contract and agree to there schedule etc. And he couldn't do their schedule because it came into conflict with True Blood.
DioFoRio - 2/22/2013, 7:27 PM
momoa is stiff like morning wood
Shamo - 2/22/2013, 7:29 PM
Done Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Clark Gregg, Scarlett Johansson, Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan and Jamie Alexander are collecting so many big checks elsewhere that they dont even know what to do with them.

Momoa is definitely missing out on a sure thing here.
tazmaniak - 2/22/2013, 7:29 PM
Use the Twilight films as an example of why it's a good idea to start with small salaries.

The first Twilight movie came out in 2008, with a budget of $37M. That's because the film didn't have any major stars. The film had 3 leads, with two of them getting paid $1M and the other getting paid $2M.

Flashforward to 2011 and we're on the 4th and 5th film. Because the films are so popular, the 3 leads have become household names. In 3 years, their salaries went from $1/2M to $12.5M. That drove the budgets of the final films up to $110M and $120M. Nearly a third of the film's budget is just for 3 actor's salaries. I don't know how much the others were paid, but there are at least 10 supporting actors who have been in all the movies.

That stuff adds up. If Marvel gave out big paychecks when the actors and directors were first hired, can you imagine how massive their salaries would be by the time Avengers 3 comes around? That film would need a huge budget.
DioFoRio - 2/22/2013, 7:30 PM
but who knows maybe it's the direction he's given..hmph :\
theomegasanction - 2/22/2013, 7:50 PM
makes sense, similar tactics are used in all sorts of business transactions. i actually prefer to see unknown actors; makes the characters more authentic when i watch. and if they are signed for multiple movies then it means continuity and thats good too
marvel72 - 2/22/2013, 7:50 PM
@ freakingintelligentrobertgriffin

jeff bridge has starred in 14 movies between big lebowski(1999)-iron man(2008) thats pretty much two films a year.

i would say that he was still getting work.
Jollem - 2/22/2013, 7:50 PM
The Wackness. Shutter Island. good ben kingsley
marvel72 - 2/22/2013, 7:51 PM
@ MARVELPSYCHO79

shit man,i thought i got everyone.
pedroparker - 2/22/2013, 7:51 PM
That´s the difference between DC and MARVEL.

DC hires the "good moment" actor

MARVEL hires the RIGHT actor
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