The Avengers may have been a blockbuster hit for Marvel, but many of the stars may not return for its sequel if the notoriously tightfisted comics company (now owned by Disney) won't cough up more cash, Nikki Finke reports in a Deadline Hollywood exclusive. While marquee name Robert Downey Jr. earned what Finke believes could be as much as $80 million all-told for the film—his less-famous (but still mostly pretty famous) co-stars got a raw deal. "Some received only $200,000 for Avengers and Downey got paid $50 million," says an insider. "On what planet is that OK?" As a result, many of the stars aren't signed on yet, even though Marvel has been touting the sequel for a year.
According to Finke, Downey Jr. is acting as a real-life superhero for his colleagues, stonewalling negotiations with Marvel to get them better paychecks. "He’s the only guy with real power in this situation. And balls of steel, too," says a source. "He's already sent a message that he’s not going to work for a place where they treat his colleagues like shit." Even writer-director Joss Whedon, who is doing the film as part of a reported $100 million multi-film deal and believes things will work out, admits Marvel is stingy: "Marvel can be very cheap, God knows," he says.