Marvel Studios Is No Longer Making Actors Sign Big Multi-Movie Contracts

Once upon a time, believe it or not, the superhero movie landscape was in a state where the idea of committing oneself to a multi-picture contract to star in them was something of a turn-off to many actors. Obviously, others didn't hesitate to jump at the chance and that's a major reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown into an unstoppable juggernaut today. Somewhat surprisingly Kevin Feige has indicated that the studio has reversed course and stepped back from insisting on these lucrative but massive contracts.

Samuel L. Jackson holds the unofficial record for Marvel's most long-term commitment at nine films (including cameos) as SHIELD stalwart Nick Fury, while many of the core Avengers cast signed on for six picture deals that occasionally would need to be re-upped as the shared universe expanded further and further — by all accounts, this had even been occurring quite recently, too. But perhaps that was an indication of a shift in preference towards shorter contracts, as Feige himself commented on Marvel's past history in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (h/t ScreenCrush):

"[Long-term contracts] got a lot of attention way back when, with I think Scarlett [Johansson], and [Chris] Hemsworth and [Chris] Evans and Sam Jackson. It varies now.

It varies, project to project, cast to cast. Really, what we want are people that come in, are excited to be in the universe, are excited at the opportunity to do more things, as opposed to being locked into contractual obligations."

Adaptability Is Key

For as much popularity and success as they've enjoyed on the big screen, Marvel's proficiency behind-the-scenes in terms of dealing with the business side of the industry shouldn't be discounted. Countless eyebrows were raised when those deals were first announced with much fanfare, but it'd be a safe bet that Feige knows that the MCU is in a very different place now than when it first sprang into existence back in 2008.

Audiences love superheroes, that much is clear, but I'd say they love the specific actors embodying those heroes even more. Marvel was smart to establish a strong sense of continuity and stability early on (Ed Norton's Bruce Banner and Terrence Howard's Rhodes excepted), reinventing their stable of C-tier heroes in large part due to plenty of smart choices on the part of casting director Sarah Finn. Now, however, the MCU sees itself at a crossroads where newer characters will be taking the place of the old guard. If viewers are able to go along with, say, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) filling in Captain America's shoes, then it makes perfect sense to reflect that adaptability with their deal-making as well.

At this point, Feige & Co. seem to know what they're doing. We wouldn't bet against their business acumen just yet.