29

Stan Lee appears in a lot of Marvel movies, such titles include:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man
  • The Avengers
  • Thor
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Spider-Man 3
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • Fantastic Four
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Hulk
  • Daredevil
  • Spider-Man
  • X-Men

Are these paid gigs, or does he just show up for free in every Marvel movie? He often has at least one spoken line and a character name.

Sidenote:

Is it my imagination or doesn't he play Hugh Hefner in Iron Man, when Tony Stark arrives at his firefighter fundraiser? He isn't credited to that movie on imdb.

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    Regarding your sidenote, yes, that is Stan Lee, but he's playing himself, who is mistaken for Hugh. – Gabe Willard Jun 12 '12 at 17:52
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    He's getting paid a metric crap-ton of money for each of these movies, but not for appearing in cameos. However, unions being unions, he's probably officially getting paid at least scale for these appearances if only to not get SAG pissed for violating the union contracts. – BBlake Jun 12 '12 at 19:07
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    Isn't this question better suited for Movies and TV? – John Jun 12 '12 at 19:35
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    "I hate to admit this, but I do not share in the movie’s profits. I just share in the interviews, in the glamour, in the people saying, “Wow, I love that movie, Stan” — but I’m not a participant in the profits. -- Stan Lee" this is a direct quote, I have heard him say this exact same thing in multiple interviews. He created all those characters as "work for hire" which means he has no rights to them as an artist, he only gets what he negotiated for way back from decades ago, which I am sure was squat. Things were different then. – Jarrod Roberson Jul 24 '12 at 8:15
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    To the close-voters: questions about behind-the-scenes and fandom information relating to a work of science fiction or fantasy are explicitly on-topic. – Rand al'Thor Mar 19 '16 at 17:30
15

While I can't find an official statement, since he's done narration for TV (both live action and animated) and done other appearances besides just quick cameos, he would be a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

As such, I'm not sure of the rules for non-spoken parts, but if it's a spoken part, he would get paid.

I wouldn't be surprised if he basically got paid scale for his appearances in addition to whatever he gets paid for his behind the scene credits. I don't know if they can just "roll it in" to his check as a producer/exec producer/whatever or if it has to be a separate negotiation.

  • I can't clearly recall Stan Lee having speaking parts in most of the movies mentioned here, but he does in The Avengers. – Iszi Jun 12 '12 at 20:33
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    @IsziRoryorIsznti In Thor he asks "did it work" when he tries to pull Thor's hammer with a truck. – Jack B Nimble Jun 12 '12 at 22:25
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    @Iszi He usually has at least one spoken line. "Superheros in New York?" in The Avengers, "I am SO fired" in Cap 2, "Did it work?" in Thor, the lip-synced "super-fine" line in Ant-Man, etc. – Nerrolken Sep 8 '15 at 21:26
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    SAG rates are roughly $150 per day for background extras and $900 per day for speaking roles. quora.com/How-much-does-a-movie-extra-earn-in-a-day-in-the-US – Wad Cheber Sep 9 '15 at 1:29
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    I find it amusing that in the USA you can't work gratis even if you want to. Land of the free my arse! – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 5 '15 at 14:44
11

Stan has said that he makes no money off the movies in multiple interviews over the years. If he doesn't speak in his cameos and isn't credited then he probably isn't getting paid for that either.

Stan Lee is the co-creator of the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and many of the comic book heroes from Marvel’s stable. But Lee will not be making the Forbes 400 list this year. Even though the film The Avengers has earned $1 billion (and counting) since it opened on May 4, 2012, Lee will not be seeing any profits from the film based on his characters.

"I hate to admit this, but I do not share in the movie’s profits. I just share in the interviews, in the glamour, in the people saying, “Wow, I love that movie, Stan”, but I’m not a participant in the profits."
- Source

This is a direct quote, I have heard him say this exact same thing in multiple interviews. He created all those characters as "work for hire" which means he has no rights to them as an artist, he only gets what he negotiated for way back from decades ago, which I am sure was squat. Things were different then.

  • he got 10 million for spiderman apparently : quora.com/… are quora links allowed ? – NimChimpsky Jul 24 '12 at 13:11
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    if you read that article for comprehension, he didn't get 10 million for Spiderman, he got 10 million for settling a lawsuit and signing over all his rights to ALL the characters over to Marvel. This settlement drove his company out of business and he is being sued personally by the former stakeholders in that company for improperly signing over those rights. So the correct answer is closer to, he might even own money to somebody for each of the films made. – Jarrod Roberson Jul 24 '12 at 14:59
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    Getting paid for his acting work and "sharing in the movie's profits" are two entirely different things. – Oldcat Sep 9 '15 at 0:11
6

He almost certainly gets paid for his cameos, but the amount of money he gets could be quite paltry, especially in comparison to the fortune he has played such a vital role in creating for Marvel.

Stan gets paid for being Stan the Man. Stan gets paid for being Executive Producer. Stan gets paid for his gratuitous cameos. Stan Lee has made himself famous. He is the Kardashians of the comics world and he is making himself rich, still, at 89 years old with the same vigor he had in 1961 when the Fantastic Four first hit the stands.
- ComicMix

It is tricky to talk about how much money he probably makes for each cameo, but this much is pretty much a given: In major movie productions, the extras are almost always compensated for their time and efforts, although the specific amount each extra earns is dependent upon several factors.

  • Time spent on set. Obviously, more time means more money.

  • Dialogue. If you say something on camera and it is clearly audible in the finished movie, you get paid more than someone who doesn't say anything on camera, or whose dialogue is lost in background chatter. Extras who get the opportunity to say something on camera are referred to as "Day Performers", whereas extras whose voices are not heard are called "Background Extras".

  • Membership in the Screen Actors Guild. S.A.G. is like a union, and it requires that all productions that sign a contract with S.A.G. abide by certain regulations. Among these regulations are the rates offered to actors who appear in the production, and who are members of S.A.G. S.A.G. membership makes things even more complicated, because it appears that they have different police from one place to the next, at least regarding minimum rates.

Assuming that Stan the Man is a S.A.G. member, which seems very likely1, and has been suggested in a few articles, he can expect to earn a whopping total of about $150 per day2 on set for a non speaking role, and he could possibly get a bit more3 thanks to standard allowances for meals, overtime, supplying your own wardrobe, etc.

If his cameo calls for him to actually say something, his earnings sky rocket to the unimaginable heights of roughly $8502, again with the possibility of a few extra bucks for lunch, wardrobe, and overtime.

The figures listed above should probably be taken as the absolute minimum amount Stan is likely to have earned for his cameo performances, and it is very easy to imagine him making much more than that by virtue of his popularity and cache. It is extremely difficult to suggest the maximum amount of money he might have made.

It is also possible that Stan Lee doesn't make a dime for his cameos, but it seems very, very unlikely. In order for him to do his cameos pro bono, he would have to have made a deliberate choice to not become a member of S.A.G., and he'd also have to be willing to spend considerable amounts of his own money to take part in filming. Since he charges at least $100 for a measly autograph, I can't imagine he would forgo the opportunity to make a bit of folding money when he gets a chance. And even if we assume that Stan doesn't realize that his time is worth a fair amount of moolah, he would still get all his travel expenses, food, lodging, and incidentals paid for by the studio. But this is almost unquestionably a moot point, because it is virtually impossible to conceive of a world in which Stan the Man doesn't receive at least nominal compensation for his time and energy.

1 You are eligible for membership in S.A.G. after you have three stints as a Background Extra under your belt, which Stan has already done. More importantly, Stan almost always gets a credit as producer on MCU films, and since Marvel is presumably eager to remain in the good graces of S.A.G., he probably would have gotten a membership card for his behind the scenes roles even if he never set foot in front of the cameras.

2 Screen Actors Guild website Rate Sheet PDF

3 Old Screen Actors Guild Rate Sheet for NY area

3

I don't know that the information is out there on how much he made on the cameos specifically, since he's more than just the guy in the background. But I do have an answer on what he was paid in general.

Stan Lee sued Marvel in 2002 and that lawsuit tells a lot about the contract he had. He entered this contract in 1998 and I'm not sure if he ever renegotiated something different, so it may still be active.

He sued them because of Hollywood accounting:

Stan Lee, co-creator of the character Spider-Man, had a contract awarding him 10% of the net profits of anything based on his characters. The film Spider-Man (2002) made more than $800 million in revenue, but the producers claim that it did not make any profit as defined in Lee's contract, and Lee received nothing.

If this practice continued, it could explain why in a 2012 interview he said he does "not share in the movie’s profits". However, there's more. The contract stated that he would also get a yearly salary, starting at $810,000 in 1998 and increasing gradually to $1 million in 2002. The $1 million would then have been his salary until he died; after his death survivor payments would have been paid to his wife if she was alive (she wasn't) and his daughter.

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