According to the media, by 2019, Robert Downey Jr. will have made nearly half a billion dollars from his Marvel role as Iron Man. To be precise, that comes to $430 million before taxes.
First things first. Nobody actually, really knows exactly how much money Robert Downey Jr. makes from Marvel except Robert Downey Jr. and the Marvel execs. Yes, there are a lot of numbers on the internet. A Google search for “How much money does Robert Downey Jr. make as Iron Man” turns up a ton of answers: $40 million per film. $75 million for Avengers. $200 million for Infinity War. The truth is, those numbers are all estimates and rumors. In many cases they’re best guesses by the blogs that publish them. In the rest, they’re based on estimates from other blogs. Even so, it’s possible to figure out some pretty solid ballpark figures for what the star has earned from Marvel. That’s because we know roughly what Disney pays and we do have figures for some typical actor contracts. See the tables below for a roundup of all the current Robert Downey Jr. Marvel money facts on the internet, plus our educated guess for what the actor really makes, and how we got it.
According to the Media: Robert Downey Jr. Will Make $430 Million
If the media is right, Downey will make $430 million by the time his ninth Marvel movie leaves theaters in 2019. That’s according to the available sources on the internet. In the section below, we’ll show why we think that number is about $200 million too high. For now, let’s dig into those sources. You could spend two hours poring through every report online that claims to know how much money Robert Downey Jr. makes from Marvel. Then you could trace the sources of those reports and build a pretty fair picture of how accurate they are. You could do all that, but why would you when we’ve already done it for you? The table below shows the top line Downey Marvel money facts. Together, they add up to $430 million.
Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man Money in the Media
|Iron Man Money Fact:||Source||Their Source|
|Robert Downey Jr.'s makes 5% to 7% of the box office take per Marvel movie||The Hollywood Reporter||"one source"|
|Robert Downey Jr. will make $200 million for Marvel's Infinity War I and II||Bleeding Cool||"Comic book film insiders in New York bars"|
|Robert Downey Jr. makes $75 million per year.||Forbes||Their own estimate|
|Robert Downey Jr. made $40 million for Marvel's Civil War||Variety||Forbes estimate|
|Robert Downey Jr. makes $80 million a year||Film Magazine||Forbes estimate|
|Robert Downey Jr. made $500,000 for Iron man, $10 million for Iron Man 2 and $50 million each for Avengers and Iron Man 3||IMDB||None|
|Robert Downey Jr. made $40 million for Captain America: Civil War||IMDB||Forbes estimate|
|Robert Downey Jr. makes $40 million per movie||Forbes||Their own estimate|
What’s Wrong with the Online Sources?
The table above shows some pretty obvious flaws. The first one is Downey’s alleged percentage. The Hollywood Reporter gives that as 5% to 7% of the box office take. That’s almost certainly too high, and their source is simply the old “one source says” citation. That said, the figure might not be too far from reality. Most actor percentage deals that we have solid evidence of are more along the lines of a quarter of a percent or half percent of profits, after all the costs have been paid off. That’s even true of Harrison Ford in the Star Wars franchise, and one could argue that he was just as crucial to the original three movies as Robert Downey Jr. is to Marvel. Still, there’s no question that Downey is the focal point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s entirely possible and even probable that he does get a higher percentage than Ford did. All that would have to happen is for him to say he is retiring. Disney might well have decided he was a bargain at 5% of box office. It’s just that there’s no source given for the “fact.”
Going down the list, Bleeding Cool says Marvel will pay Downey Jr. $200 million for the two Infinity War movies. Sounds awesome, and Downey probably wouldn’t turn the money down, but look at their source. “Comic book film insiders in New York bars.” Would their testimony be less believable if the bars were in Indiana? How about if they said, “Two guys with overbites we met at Comic-Con?” Most of the rest of the figures in the table are based on estimates from Forbes. What’s wrong with Forbes estimates? Nothing, as long as the reader understands they’re only estimates. Except Forbes doesn’t say how they got those estimates. Is it just a guess or did they do some digging and some math? Forbes is a well respected publication and rightly so, but they didn’t get their Robert Downey Jr. Marvel money facts directly from anyone who actually knows.
In the clip below, Downey promises fans will get their money back if they don’t like 2014’s The Judge.
MoneyNation Analysis: Robert Downey Jr. Will Make $205 Million from Marvel
In the section above, we made the case that the $430 million estimate for Downey’s Marvel pay is loosely based. Why is our $205 million estimate any better? Because at least you can see our logic, and we think you’ll agree it’s solid. Before we get to that though, here’s our detailed estimate for Robert Downey Jr.’s Marvel money:
Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man Money
|Marvel Movies Starring Iron Man||The Media Says||We Say||Our Math|
|Iron Man||$500,000||$2,000,000||$500,000 + 1/4% of Profit|
|Iron Man 2||$10,000,000||$13,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Avengers||$50,000,000||$39,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Iron Man 3||$50,000,000||$32,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Avengers: Age of Ultron||$40,000,000||$35,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Captain America: Civil War||$40,000,000||$10,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Spider-Man: Homecoming||$40,000,000||$26,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Avengers: Infinity War Part I||$100,000,000||$25,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Avengers: Infinity War Part II||$100,000,000||$23,000,000||$10 Million + 2.5% of Profit|
|Robert Downey Jr. Total Money as Iron Man||$430,500,000||$205,000,000|
To build the table above, we first estimated Robert Downey Jr.’s probable base pay. It’s likely that, as IMDB says, he only made about $500,000 in base pay for the original Iron Man in 2008. That matches actual Hollywood salary facts for comparable movies and comparable actors. Back then, Downey wasn’t the hot property he is today. But Downey almost certainly had some kind of percentage deal as the film’s star. Judging by other known deals like Harrison Ford’s original Star Wars contract, that was probably around 1/2%.
The original Iron Man pulled in $585 million. After paying for its $140 million production budget and its estimated $75 million marketing budget, that leaves a profit of $370 million. 1/2% of that is about $1.85 million. Adding Downey’s probable base pay of $500,000 gets us to the $2.35 million mark.
Downey’s Marvel Pay to Date: $125 Million
After the success of Iron Man, Downey likely renegotiated a higher percentage of sales with Marvel. Percentage deals are common with big stars and Hollywood. Again, Harrison Ford is known to have had a 1/2% arrangement with Lucasfilm and later, Disney. Downey also would have negotiated a higher base pay. From an analysis of other big-draw stars, that figure would have been around $10 million per film. Going by those numbers gives us the figures in our table. In each case, we’ve figured Downey’s percentage of profit as the film’s box office take minus production budget and marketing budget.
Why does the table above show Downey making less money for the upcoming three Marvel movies, including Infinity War? Budgets. Robert Downey Jr.’s percentage will come out of the profits from those films. That means after the production budget has been paid for. Reports indicate that Disney is upping its production budget for those films to $350 million each. If that’s true, that give Downey less earnings on his percent of profits, even if the box office numbers are extremely high.
According to our analysis, Downey has made about $125 million so far from Marvel. That’s $2 million for Iron Man, $7 million for Iron Man 2, $39 million for The Avengers, $32 million for Iron Man 3, $35 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron and $10 million so far for Captain America: Civil War. In the cases of most of the Marvel movies listed above, that’s based on $10 million base pay and 2.5% of the film’s profit after production cost and marketing cost. The only exception is the original Iron Man in 2008, which we estimated as $500,000 base pay plus 1/4% of profits.
What if We’re Wrong?
If we’re wrong about Robert Downey Jr.’s Marvel percentage, then we’re wrong about his earnings. Our percentage and base pay estimates of 2.5% of profits and $10 million per film far exceed known deals with other actors in blockbuster movies outside the Disney film world. Still, to give you an idea of how much Downey’s Marvel pay would be with different percentages, check out the table below. It shows Downey’s Marvel earnings if he makes 1%, 2%, 3% and so on. It also estimates his earnings for future Marvel projects he’s attached to, such as Spider Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War parts I and II. So, is it possible that Downey will get halfway to a billion just from Marvel by 2019? Only if he’s getting 7% of every movie’s profits. That’s highly doubtful and unprecedented, even for the man who some say shoulders the entire MCU.
If Robert Downey Jr. Gets a Bigger Percentage
|Hypothetical Percentages||Robert Downey Jr. Pay|
Would the MCU Exist Without Robert Downey Jr.?
Some fans get irritated when they hear how much money Downey reportedly makes from Marvel. While the debate about whether the actor is worth his rumored pay goes on, Downey clearly comes down on one side of things. In the video below, he makes fun of all the credit he gets for making Marvel’s movie magic happen.