According to The New York Post, Scarlett Johansson will become Hollywood's highest-paid woman, snagging a cool $20 million paycheck for assembling for the sequel to this spring's humble, low-budget sleeper hit The Avengers. This will mean that for her supporting role — because there was no official lead in the ensemble superhero flick — she will receive one million more dollars than Angelina Jolie made for her lead role in The Tourist, which was a colossal flop and a running joke at the Golden Globes in 2011. Does this mean more screen time for the Black Widow? Does it mean shawarma every night of the week? Is she making anywhere near what Robert Downey Jr. will make? (Answer to that: No, but no one is, really.)
E! is saying this might just be a rumor, that such a paycheck has not been confirmed by Johansson's reps. But that doesn't necessarily mean that $20 million is that unreasonable, at least by Hollywood standards. For one thing, Scarlett Johansson is what the kids call "like, super famous." And people who are super famous make super amounts of money. Think back to the mid-1990s when Jim Carrey was super famous, at the apex of his career, and became the highest paid comedy actor in Hollywood by getting $20 million (in 1995 dollars!) for The Cable Guy. (A movie that is excellent, by the way.) People thought that was insane! But $20 million now is practically pocket change for The Famous, except when it isn't. Sometimes it's a big deal, like when it's breaking records. Julia Roberts broke that record-slash-glass ceiling after she kicked all that ass in Erin Brokovich back in 2000.
Mostly, if this $20 million paycheck is true, it's a generous raise from the $400,000 Johansson received for her first appearance as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. "We liked you that much, and we also made that much, so let's go ahead and make sure you come back so we can recreate all the good times we had." [Not an actual quote, just an imagined scenario.]
For a comparison, Robert Downey Jr. will probably end up with over $50 million for the first movie (that's including box office bonuses, backend compensation, etc. not just the initial paycheck). The rest of the cast — Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Chris Hemsworth — all agreed to relatively small salaries plus bonuses and will make $2-3 million each. Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson actually got about twice that much, plus bonuses. However, in addition to Johansson, everyone will likely get themselves a hefty, hefty raise for the sequel.
But if you really want to stick someone with the bar tab, make it Johnny Depp, who made an estimated $250 million on all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.