Like a battle in a Marvel movie, Disney and Scarlett Johansson continue to exchange punches.
It all began Thursday when Johansson filed a lawsuit accusing Disney of breaching her contract for Black Widow, which guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. Disney then replied with a statement that accused her of “callous disregard” to the covid-19 pandemic and revealed her salary on the film: $20 million. The haymakers have continued Friday when Johansson’s agency, Creative Artists Agency, released a statement firing back. “I want to address the Walt Disney Company’s statement that was issued in response to the lawsuit filed against them yesterday by our client Scarlett Johansson,” Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency, said in a statement obtained by Variety. “They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.”
“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd continued. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of. Scarlett is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade...This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract. They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company, leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That’s it, pure and simple. Disney’s direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades.”
In case you don’t remember Disney’s statement Lourd is referring to, here it is in full: “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.”
This is certainly going to be the beginning of a long battle, though the results could prove dramatic for the entertainment industry at large, especially if Johansson wins the lawsuit instead of settling or having it dismissed in court. You may recall a recent big push from authors who were uniting to fight Disney over royalties after Alan Dean Foster accused the company of withholding Star Wars book royalties post-Lucasfilm acquisition. Johansson has a big enough name (and certainly enough money) to make this a very public and dragged-out fight, unlike countless others who don’t have the privilege of going up against a company worth an estimated $122.18 billion.
And it doesn’t end there. Matt Belloni, former editor at the Hollywood Reporter, said in his newsletter (posted by Screenrant) that Emma Stone might be considering a similar lawsuit with regards to Cruella which Disney released exclusively via its streaming services’ “Premier Access.” Emily Blunt and John Krasinski may have also looked at similar options with their Paramount film, A Quiet Place Part 2, and that’s with Blunt’s latest film, Jungle Cruise, coming to theaters and Disney+ Premier Access today. Grab your popcorn. Unless you’re Disney. Cause it’s going to be very interesting.
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