As we reported yesterday, Disney finds itself the recent target of a lawsuit from Scarlett Johansson over residuals owed to her from the Black Widow movie, which her contract stated would be a theatrical release, and which the studio opted to release day and date.
As this swirls, Disney has fired back at the lawsuit with a personal attack, saying, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing.”
The spokesperson continued, “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Obviously, that personal shot was heard by Johansson and her agents and attorneys. Johansson’s attorney, John Berlinski of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, said in a statement: “It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price—and that it’s hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court. This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.”
CAA Agent Bryan Lourd also fired back on Johannsson's behalf, publishing a statement that in part reads, "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."
Disney has to get ahead of actors who feel slighted by losing out on box office thanks to day and date releases or even feel that their contracts have been breached.
Former Hollywood Reporter editor Matt Belloni tackled this idea in his exclusive newsletter What I'm Hearing... and said Emma Stone might seek the same legal action as Johansson. He wrote, "Emma Stone, star of Cruella, is said to be weighing her options," and went on to discuss how other actors and actresses within Disney productions may speak out.
This is Hollywood's newest burden to bear, with Warner Bros. having to handle a similar situation as far back as Dec. 2020 with the release of Wonder Woman: 1984 on HBO Max as well as in theaters, and with its entire slate moving to HBO Max as well as in theaters. The ripple effect of these lawsuits will certainly change the way these contracts are negotiated in the future.
We'll keep an eye on this as it develops.