It's a bad time to be a Marvel movie actor, unless you're Robert Downey Jr. (or Gwyneth Paltrow, who'd be the first to say that it is always a good time to be Gwyneth Paltrow).

Mere months after Marvel had to sub in Don Cheadle for Terrence Howard when the latter found Iron Man 2's War Machine suit not sufficiently baby-wiped, Samuel L. Jackson has announced that he may not be returning as Nick Fury. The character was introduced in a quick scene after the original Iron Man's closing credits, but Marvel had big plans to keep Fury (whose comic-book redesign was actually based on Jackson) around for the sequel and, ultimately, its superhero crossoverpalooza The Avengers. Now, not so much, Jackson tells the LAT:

"I saw ['Iron Man' and 'Iron Man 2' director] Jon Favreau at the Scream Awards and we had a conversation. He said, 'I hope things are working out for you because we're writing stuff for you.' Then all of a sudden last week I talked to my agents and manager and things aren't really working that well."

"There was a huge kind of negotiation that broke down. I don't know. Maybe I won't be Nick Fury. Maybe somebody else will be Nick Fury or maybe Nick Fury won't be in it. There seems to be an economic crisis in the Marvel Comics world so [they're saying to me], 'We're not making that deal.'"

Still, like I told the actor, he has a big advantage on his side: Who else wants to wear that patch, especially since the character is based on Jackson? Jackson laughed. "Maybe nobody will wear it. Maybe they'll decide Nick Fury won't be part of it."

We were always curious how Marvel planned to budget an Avengers movie that would include the well-compensated Downey Jr., plus Cheadle, Jackson, Edward Norton as the Hulk, and the yet-to-be-cast stars for Captain America and Thor. Now, we feel we're getting the picture: Downey Jr will no doubt return, but Marvel will enact its third recast for War Machine (how about that kid from 90210?) and fill out the rest of its dirt-cheap Avengers with the entire cast of Gossip Girl. Westwick SMASH!