Following her destruction of the Red Room, Scarlett Johansson has set her sights on a new all-powerful entity with a worrying amount of power, as the actress has filed a lawsuit against Disney on the grounds that the media conglomerate violated the terms of her contract when they released Black Widow on Disney Plus at the same time as the film landed in theaters.
As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Johansson’s lawsuit argues that Disney’s decision to employ a simultaneous release strategy for Black Widow “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,” as the actress’ salary for appearing in the film was based heavily on its box office returns.
According to “a person familiar with details of her contract”, Black Widow’s Disney Plus release will purportedly cost the actress more than $50 Million USD.
The lawsuit further notes that Johansson was concerned that Black Widow would end up on Disney Plus even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the extent that she sought assurance from Marvel that her contract would be honored.
In response, Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi assured Johansson that the film would exclusively release in theaters, writing to the actress in an email, “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.”
However, the lawsuit further claims that her attempts to re-negotiate her contract in light of Black Widow’s dual release were ignored by both Disney and Marvel.
The lawsuit further claims that Johansson attempted to renegotiate her contract after learning of Black Widow’s dual release, but notes that both Disney and Marvel were “unresponsive”.
One of Johansson’s lawyers, John Berlinski, provided a statement to Variety in which he asserted, “It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney Plus 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,” added Berlinski. “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.”
As for Disney, just hours after Johansson’s lawsuit was made public, the company issued a statement in their defense, wherein they declared, “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,” the company concluded.
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