Combined, they’re the most powerful superhero ensemble the world has ever seen: super-strong, super-fast, super-smart and damn near unbeatable. But split apart The Avengers and what becomes of their component parts when they’re not on duty? With Robert Downey Jr making an increasingly rare non-Iron Man appearance this week in legal thriller ‘The Judge’, we decided to see which Avenger was the most successful at the box-office outside of the Marvel canon (i.e. ‘Iron Man’ onwards). The champ might surprise you…
#7. Chris Evans
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £98 million
It’s perhaps no surprise that Chris Evans has the least pull at the box-office outside of the Avengers: Evans has said many times he plans to move into directing once his Marvel contract is up, and with no sign of those superhero paycheques stopping any time soon, he doesn’t need to work if he doesn’t want to. With both of his ‘Fantastic 4’ movies pre-dating the current Marvel universe, Evans’ biggest hit post-‘Iron Man’ was his least known superhero outing, ‘Push’, which made £29 million worldwide. Perhaps if the Weinsteins had actually bothered to release heavily-buzzed sci-fi ‘Snowpiercer’ properly instead of indefinitely shelving it, he’d have made a better showing in this rich list.
#6. Mark Ruffalo
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £499 million
The third actor to play Marvel’s Hulk in ten years, Ruffalo brought credibility to the role of Bruce Banner in ‘Avengers Assemble’, and it looks like he’ll bring some stability to it too. Since 2008, Ruffalo’s indie cred has been bolstered by several high-profile roles, including the co-lead in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’ and a role in another ensemble, ‘Now You See Me’, the sleeper hit which netted a quite frankly unbelievable £217 million at the box-office. Ruffalo’s smaller roles don’t fare too badly either: recent romcom ‘Begin Again’ opposite Keira Knightley was no HULK SMASH but it did make a respectable £34 million.
#5. Scarlett Johansson
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £609 million
Johansson is a box-office behemoth: she’s graduated from surly-looking, croaky-voiced teen in the likes of ‘Ghost World’ to an all-conquering, audience-slaying A-lister – she lit up cinemas as the lead of Luc Besson’s action/sci-fi ‘Lucy’ and it’s closing in on a £248 million take worldwide. That could be the Marvel effect in action (they pay low wages but bump up their cast’s star factor considerably) but don’t sell Scarlett short: ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, ‘We Bought A Zoo’, ‘Don Jon’ and ‘Chef’ were all decent-sized hits. Frankly Johansson’s work-rate puts some of the male Avengers to shame.
#4. Chris Hemsworth
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £647 million
When he’s not swinging the hammer of Thor, Hemsworth has picked his non-Asgardian projects well, working with directors like Ron Howard and Joss Whedon (with Michael Mann and Steven Spielberg still on the slate). If you count his brief role in JJ Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ reboot – and we do, because he’s brilliant as Kirk’s dad even with just a few minutes of screen time – then Hemsworth’s non-MCU CV tops a billion in revenue. His biggest hit was ‘Snow White And The Huntsman’ and Hemsworth’s pull is now so great, the forthcoming prequel will ditch Snow White and be all about him instead.
#3. Samuel L Jackson
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £737 million
Yes, we know Nick Fury isn’t technically an Avenger – spare me the structural hierarchy of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all associated subsidiaries – but Jackson’s contribution to the Marvel universe cannot be overstated, so he makes the list. Jackson’s approach to work seems to be quantity AND quality – he’s never not working, but he mixes box-office hits like ‘RoboCop’ (£150 million) and ‘The Other Guys’ (£105 million) with all manner of straight-to-video schlock. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ contributes almost half of his post-Nick Fury career takings, but it’s worth remembering that Samuel L Jackson is technically the most successful actor of all time, with no less than £2.5 billion to his name (thanks to ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘The Incredibles’ and something called ‘Star Wars’).
#2. Robert Downey Jr.
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £935 million
Shock horror! He’s the highest paid actor in the world and one of the most high profile names in the business, but Robert Downey Jr is not the most successful Avenger when it comes to extra-curricular activity. To be fair, five of his last 11 films have been Marvel movies, and not only did Tony Stark kick off the MCU with the phenomenally successful ‘Iron Man’, he scored its biggest hit to date with ‘Iron Man 3’ (£745 million). Downey has still worked wonders elsewhere, however, with two ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movies racking up over a billion at the box-office, and even lesser comedies like ‘Due Date’ scoring big (£131 million). Still, Tony Stark will have to stand aside for the true big winner of The Avengers…
#1. Jeremy Renner
Non-Marvel box-office takings since 2008: £1.03 billion
Hawkeye? Seriously? I mean, who saw this coming? Often thought of as the forgotten Avenger – “Where’s your standalone movie, Clint?” tease his super-friends – Jeremy Renner has nonetheless forged a crazy successful career almost out of nowhere. The secret to Renner’s success is not billion-dollar blockbusters but several different medium-sized franchises: with ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘Bourne’ and even ‘Hansel & Gretel’ all on the go, those millions keep coming (and further sequels to all three movies are lined up). Even his dramatic roles register at the box-office, with ‘American Hustle’ profiting from David O Russell’s awards season sheen and ‘The Hurt Locker’ benefiting from Renner’s Best Actor Oscar nomination – he’s the only man on this list to receive one since MCU ground zero.