Even as IRON MAN 3 is a record setting triumph for Marvel, as I hinted the other day, Marvel Studios’ stinginess over signing deals with talent is leading to a titans clash battle over AVENGERS 2. Nikki Finke has the lowdown and it’s yet another takedown on Ike Perlmutter—a man who is so cheap that he wouldn’t allow an Oscar campaign for AVENGERS even when Disney offered to pay for it. Not only is Robert Downey Jr. not signed for any further movies, but Scarlett Johansson and others need to be signed up as well—and Marvel is not budging. In the past they made offers of $500,000 raises to stars of hit movies, so we’re looking at an epic showdown. And Ike is the strongest one there is.
The sad truth is that both Iger and Horn are scared stiff of Perlmutter and want to steer clear of the inevitable nightmare negotiations. Reps predict Ike is “going to create a lot of drama and going to want to prove a point and not look like he’s going to get run over”. Says one out of frustration: “I’m so bent out of shape by this asshole. He now works for a public company so I don’t understand how he can keep hiding behind the curtain.” Easy, because the Israeli-born and reclusive Perlmutter, worth $2.4B, is Disney’s third largest individual shareholder. (He had been the second biggest shareholder but that changed when Disney added Star Wars to its empire and handed George Lucas a ginormous compensation package. Disney’s top shareholder remains the Steve Jobs Trust.) Disney never dared hope that The Avengers would reap $1.5 billion in worldwide box office revenue, the third highest global gross ever. Yet no castmember has ever heard from Ike. True, Kevin Feige phoned the cast that weekend opening, but it was a first. And Iger did pick up the phone to congratulate filmmaker Joss Whedon who recalled to Deadline recently: “He couldn’t have been sweeter. He said ‘This wasn’t about the other movies — you did this’.”
The piece includes an interview with Whedon, who has been signed to a huge $100 million deal that will leave him busy with Disney projects for years.
DEADLINE: Marvel is notoriously cheap and some of the Avengers cast will want more money for the sequel. How could that affect Avengers 2?
WHEDON: I’m not going to comment specifically because I’m not privy to that sort of stuff and I don’t think it’s my place to talk about. In general terms, yes – Marvel can be very cheap, God knows. They can also be sensible and frugal. They have a very small infrastructure and they’re not heaping this money on themselves. I don’t know a producer who’s done more and is paid less than Kevin Feige. I think that it’s an issue but it’s part of a bigger issue, which is there was a time when there was a crisis in the acting community where stars were getting $20 million and character actors were disappearing as a concept. There were no middle class actors. It was suddenly bit players and Jim Carrey, and that was it. Now the studios have gotten to a point where they’re like, “Do we need that star?” With what they’re able to to digitally and the way they create franchises there’s a little bit of a feeling of, maybe we can eliminate the actor – not totally and not totally cynically, but I’ve literally heard people at the agency say, not about Marvel, “This studio is eliminating the middle movie. They’re not making dramas or prestige pics or anything that isn’t either a franchise or a Paranormal-style found footage”. I think that changes the landscape for actors because really good actors are interested in doing a franchise because they need something.
You got that? Even MOVIE STARS AREN’T GETTING PAID LIKE THEY USED TO.
One lone hero has emerged to do battle with Marvel, and that’s RDJ himself, who has become a spokesman for younger cast members. Is he enough to counter Ike Perlmutter? Grab the popcorn.
For some more comment on this, producer Don Murphy’s Facebook page has some choice bits:
1- Ike Perlmutter is way worse than depicted here. I’ve heard he makes underlings account for paper and pens and doesn’t want to pay for mileage charges out to the Valley. He screwed over his partner in crime Avi Arad in favor of David Maisel, who brought the film financing in, and then got rid of him. This guy is so tight he squeaks. Not sure he does any charitable work, seems to think he can take it all with him. How sad.
2- Kevin Feige is “reinventing the movie business” has to be the greatest quote of the new decade. I remember when Kevin was Avi’s number two and his entire vocabulary consisted of “Yes” and “Avi.” He just happened to be the last man standing. I hope he’s getting the big bucks. Once Avi got the chop he hasn’t produced a single film (unless you count BRATZ THE MOVIE!! and ROBOSAPIEN!!!) outside of the contract leftovers from his Marvel days. He sits in his rented office with his Ivy League educated son waiting for the phone to ring. Feige sold his soul and it ain’t coming back anytime soon! A lonely future for sure.
Murphy also asks a question that many have raised: If Disney owns Disney why are they so afraid of Ike? He’s the one character in all of this who is truly larger than life.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.