Robert Downey jnr will earn $US50 million from the blockbuster The Avengers in one of Hollywood's biggest acting paydays.
The 47-year-old actor's enormous salary for playing the superhero character Iron Man is around 10 times higher than the amounts received by any of his six co-stars in the film, who include Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson.
The comic book film has been a global box office hit, grossing more than $US1 billion, and is on course to become the third most successful cinematic production of all time behind Avatar and Titanic.
Executives at Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney, had faced a challenge to keep costs down as they incorporated different superhero characters, some of whom had already been played by the same actors in other films.
That meant relatively low salaries of between $US2 million and $US3million were given to Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Mark Ruffalo (Hulk). Jackson (Nick Fury) and Johansson (The Black Widow) took home about twice that. Evans had already played his superhero character in Captain America: The First Avenger, which collected $US364 million at the box office, and Hemsworth's own film Thor made $US449 million.
But Downey jnr's slice of profits from The Avengers was due to a deal he signed after the success of his own film Iron Man in 2008, which made $585 million.
His deal with the studio was negotiated to include him being paid a percentage, reportedly five per cent or higher, of the box office take for any future movie in which he played the character.
The payday, which could ultimately rise higher when the full profits of the film are known, consolidates his place in the top echelon of Hollywood stars. It is also a remarkable career turnaround for the actor who was frequently arrested on drug charges and was eventually jailed.
A third Iron Man film is planned for release in 2013 and such is the success of The Avengers that Disney has announced a sequel. Downey jnr is also the titular character in the Sherlock Holmes franchise, which has made more than $US1 billion.
His earnings are still trumped by the $US250 million Johnny Depp made for the four Pirates of the Caribbean films he starred in as Captain Jack Sparrow, and the $US75million Tom Cruise made for Mission: Impossible II.