Last week, Marvel star Scarlett Johansson sued Disney, claiming that by releasing her new film “Black Widow” in both theaters and on Disney+ through the streaming service’s Premier Access function, she lost out on as much as $50 million in box office profit-sharing payments. Disney was quick to fire back in an uncharacteristically personal way:
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 also mentioned that Johansson had already been paid $20 million for “Black Widow,” I imagine to try and get people thinking something lie, ‘Hasn’t she been paid enough already?’ Soon enough, Johansson’s camp fired back at that with a new statement: “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,” it read, calling Disney’s statement a “direct attack on [Johansson’s] character.”
Times Up, ReFrame and Women In Film also issued a joint statement condemning Disney for their words:
While we take no position on the business issues in the litigation between Scarlett Johansson and The Walt Disney Company, we stand firmly against Disney’s recent statement which attempts to characterize Johansson as insensitive or selfish for defending her contractual business rights. This gendered character attack has no place in a business dispute and contributes to an environment in which women and girls are perceived as less able than men to protect their own interests without facing ad hominem criticism.
In other words, this is a complete cluster the likes of which Marvel hasn’t really seen before. You can only imagine how awkward things are around the MCU offices right now.
Marvel boss Kevin Fiege reportedly “angry and embarrassed” over Disney’s behavior
And how does Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige feel about all this? Feige has been credited with building the MCU into the unstoppable blockbuster franchise that it is, in part because he’s excellent at finding and retaining talent like Johansson. He hasn’t weighed in officially yet, but former The Hollywood Reporter editor Matt Belloni brought us some whispers from his little birds in his industry newsletter What I’m Hearing.
According to Belloni, Feige is “angry and embarrassed” over the way Disney has handled the situation, saying that Feige was against the hybrid release for Black Widow from the start. “When the shit hit the fan, the movie started tanking, and Johansson’s team threatened litigation, [Feige] wanted Disney to make this right with her,” Belloni writes.
So yeah, this is a mess, and we’re not sure what’s going to happen next. We do know, however, that Gerard Butler just sued Millennium Media for $10 million he claims is owed to him for his performance in the 2013 movie “Olympus Has Fallen,” and Belloni reports that Emma Stone is “weighing her options” over whether to sue Disney for releasing her movie “Cruella” in both theaters and on Disney+. And Disney is reportedly reaching out to stars to do the renegotiations it didn’t do with Johansson.