This time last year, Walt Disney Studios made the controversial decision to release its first Marvel movie since the COVID-19 pandemic in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on the same day. It was the first and last time the House of Mouse did this for a Marvel Studios movie, especially following Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against the studio for breaching their contract. In the aftermath of Black Widow’s release, Marvel director and producer Joe Russo has shared his honest perspective on the studio’s treatment of Johansson.
Joe Russo, is one half of the Russo Brothers, who have worked with the actress on four Marvel films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. After helming Endgame, which included the death of Black Widow alongside Captain America and Iron Man's storylines being wrapped, the Russos have moved away from Marvel to pursue original movies, like Extraction and the upcoming The Gray Man. Recently, Russo reflected on the Black Widow situation with these words:
Black Widow had a solid opening weekend back in theaters in July 2021 and Disney boasted $60 million in Disney+ earnings, but Scarlett Johansson nor any other talent received backend payment for the earnings made on streaming. To make matters worse, Black Widow dropped nearly 70% at the box office in its second week, which is unheard of with Marvel. Black Widow’s disappointing $379 million worldwide box office total led to Johansson’s lawsuit.
Initially, Disney had a scathing response to Johansson’s lawsuit, calling it “callous” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple months later, the lawsuit was settled between the two sides. Furthermore Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which featured a relatively unknown star and superhero, came out the following September and surpassed Black Widow’s numbers, making $432 million worldwide in theaters exclusively.
Previously, it was reported by The Wall Street Journal, without cited sources, that the Russo Brothers were so upset by Disney’s treatment of Scarlett Johansson for Black Widow that they decided not to return to Marvel. Russo also said during his Den of Geek interview:
The Russos have recently continued to work with Marvel stars on original movies outside of the superhero realm, such as with Tom Holland on Cherry, Chris Hemsworth on Extraction (which the Russo Bros produced) and the upcoming release of The Gray Man, with Chris Evans playing villain to Ryan Gosling’s black ops mercenary. That movie hits Netflix on July 15.
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