Scarlett Johansson made huge waves yesterday when the Wall Street Journal revealed that the actress had filed a lawsuit against Disney/Marvel alleging they have breached their contract when bumping “Black Widow” out of a theatrical widow and giving the superhero film a hybrid release. Her suit maintains that dropping the film on Disney+ with Premier Access directly impacted her original back-end profits deal, which was based on the film’s performance at the global box office.
Disney’s statement said the suit had “no merit,” pointing towards the $20 million the actress had already earned (Johansson reportedly could lose $50 million in bonuses). The company also tried to use the pandemic as a way to mischaracterize the actress as greedy and unsympathetic instead of simply wanting the company to honor its contractual obligations.
Deadline has now published a blistering response from Scarlett’s agent Bryan Lourd and co-chairman of the major Hollywood agency CAA defending Johansson’s character and chastizing Disney’s attempt to use the pandemic to shame the actress for filing the lawsuit.
“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. 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. 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.“
If CAA were participating in Scarlett Johansson’s earnings and bonuses, the agency filing their own lawsuit wouldn’t be that shocking, but regardless it’s understandable why they are firing back so hard, considering their financial interest. However, many believe this won’t go to court as this public spat looks increasingly bad for Disney. Additionally, the company still hasn’t officially refuted the claim that they breached the contract, only tip-toeing around that subject. An incoming settlement to avoid further bad press would not be surprising.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is said to be “angry and embarrassed” by the whole situation, as reported by Matt Belloni. Johansson isn’t some fly-by-night actor, but a longstanding legacy actor that joined the MCU over a decade ago and enduring the horrible Phase One contracts that exploited/lowballed the first wave of actors.