Many were surprised when it was reported this past week that longtime Marvel star Scarlett Johansson was suing The Walt Disney Company over the simultaneous theatrical/streaming release of Black Widow. While we only learned of her filing a few days ago, the situation has already turned into a bit of a back-and-forth between the actress and the entertainment entity. In the wake of the lawsuit, Disney provided a scathing response to the filing. Now, Johannson’s talent agency has clapped back at Disney’s statements.
When responding to Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit, The Walt Disney Company asserted in a statement that there is “no merit whatsoever” to her filing. The company also stated that the lawsuit is “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” In addition, the corporation also claims that it “fully complied with” Johansson’s contract.
Bryan Lourd, the co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), later released a statement of his own (via Variety) on the matter. Lourd believes Disney is characterizing Scarlett Johansson as not having regard for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:
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. … 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.
Scarlett Johansson is specifically suing Disney on the grounds of breach of contract, claiming that Black Widow's release on Disney+ altered the terms of her original contract. A large portion of the Oscar-nominated actress’ salary was reportedly meant to come from the box office returns of the movie, which experienced a major drop-off in its second week. According to her lawsuit, she is still owed tens of millions of dollars.
In its response, Disney claimed that Scarlett Johansson had already received $20 million. But Bryan Lourd believes that the mention of this number is merely a way to “weaponize” the actress’ success:
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.
If reports are to be believed, the lawsuit is having a number of ripple effects within the House of Mouse. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, who reportedly did not want a joint theatrical/streaming release for Black Widow, is allegedly “angry and embarrassed” about how things are playing out within the situation. Reports also claim Emma Stone of Cruella, which received the same kind of release earlier this year, is now weighing her own legal options in the wake of Johansson's lawsuit.
At this point, it’s hard to say how the contentious situation might be resolved. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the case and will keep you posted as things continue to unfold.