Live, laugh, love, lawsuit. Scarlett Johansson invoked a Karen’s fourth-favorite L-word on July 29, filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Black Widow star alleges that her contract was breached when the Marvel film was released on Disney+ at the same time as its theatrical debut on July 9. The suit claims Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release and that her salary was based on the box-office performance of the film. “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,” the suit reads. Black Widow is Johansson’s first leading film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and she’s said it’s her final appearance. Per a source with the Wall Street Journal, the decision to put the film online cost Johansson more than $50 million.
Emails included in the suit show her representatives tried to solidify a theatrical release as early as March 2019. “We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses,” Marvel chief counsel Dave Galluzzi said at the time. During its July 9 opening weekend, Black Widow made $80 million domestically, $78 million internationally, and $60 million from $30 single purchases on Disney+. Black Widow is one of several Disney films that were released simultaneously on Disney+ and in theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw theaters close or reduce their capacity. It only helps the streaming service as it competes against a seemingly never-ending list of Plus-es.
Update, July 29 at 5:45 p.m.: Disney says the lawsuit has “no merit whatsoever,” in a statement to the New York Times. The company, which, now that we think of it, reopened its theme parks during a pandemic, called it “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The statement continued: “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.” Even the Avengers are paying in exposure nowadays.
Update, July 30, 1:30 p.m.: The co-chair of Creative Arts Agency released a statement shared by Bloomberg condemning Disney’s response accusing Scarlett Johansson of acting callously amid the pandemic. A woman of many colors, no less! “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,” co-chair Bryan Lourd wrote. “Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions. 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 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.” Considering this is the third update in 24 hours, we get the feeling this lawsuit will not be pure and simple.