Who would have ever thought the action preceding the Black Widow movie would be more intense than the film itself! Today actress Scarlett Johansson, who plays the Marvel super hero, Black Widow, filed a lawsuit against Disney for having the film debut on Disney Plus at the same time as its theatrical release. This sank the film’s second week box office and left it very susceptible to pirating. Not to mention, it cut in to Johansson’s payday by affecting the overall box office performance.
However, the House of Mouse has quickly responded to Johansson’s claim:
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
There’s a reason why you don’t mess with Disney…
When Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit was announced, her legal team issued the following statement:
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel.”
John Berlinski, an attorney who represents Scarlett Johansson, added that “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.”
ScarJo is arguably the most high-profile star, taking on what is arguably the most powerful studio in entertainment, over an issue that has never been more pivotal. In what feels like an echo of the battle over the big studio systems of the old days, actors and other creative talents are trying to navigate the quickly evolving industry format – especially where streaming is concerned. From actors to musicians, there is a low-key war going between talent and owners, regarding who gets how much of the streaming profits – and just how those profits are measured and negotiated in modern contracts.
Black Widow has made significant money from Disney’s Disney+ streaming service and its “Premier Access” premium feature, which offers new theatrical movies to viewers at home, for a surcharge. Clearly, ScarJo and/or her legal team don’t feel like the profits from that streaming option are being reflected in the negotiated sums. It’s a fair thing to wonder since Johansson’s Black Widow contract was done before COVID-19 swept across the world and drastic new distribution plans for the film had to be made.
Oh well, it’s not like her character is coming back to the MCU. The Black Widow character was killed off in Avengers Endgame. Guess if you are going to burn a bridge might as well do it when you are walking out the door…