Dune director Denis Villeneuve revealed he fully supports Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company.
Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney that claims “Disney intentionally and improperly induced Marvel to breach its agreement with [Scarlett Johansson] by releasing [Black Widow] on Disney+ simultaneously with its release in theaters, in violation of the Agreement which required a ‘theatrical release of the Picture’ as the parties understood that term at the time of contracting, meaning an exclusive theatrical release of the Picture.”
The actress specifically claims that “Disney acted with malice, oppression, or fraud, and in willful disregard of [her] rights and interests.”
She is seeking monetary and punitive damages against Disney.
Speaking with French magazine La Presse, the Dune director revealed his support for Johansson.
Using Google’s machine translation, Villeneuve stated, “What would happen if the opposite happened and we did not respect the contracts that we signed on our side?”
He continued, “In addition, it is wrong to believe that cinema on the big screen is not doing well. But this industry is on a roller coaster ride, which is at odds with Wall Street’s desire for stability. And these platform subscriptions provide studios with fixed income. I have nothing against platforms, quite the contrary. They are an extraordinary tool to give us access to the memory of cinema.
“But a film’s career must begin with the big screen first. From now on, I will also contractually require my films to be released exclusively in theaters,” he declared.
Back in December 2020, Villeneuve penned an op-ed in Variety where he blasted Warner Bros. decision to release Dune on HBO Max at the same time the film would be released in theaters.
In the op-ed he stated, “With this decision AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history. There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion.”
He added, “Therefore, even though “Dune” is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street. With HBO Max’s launch a failure thus far, AT&T decided to sacrifice Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 slate in a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention.”
Later in the op-ed, Villeneuve wrote, “I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says. Since the dawn of time, humans have deeply needed communal storytelling experiences.”
Cinema on the big screen is more than a business, it is an art form that brings people together, celebrating humanity, enhancing our empathy for one another — it’s one of the very last artistic, in-person collective experiences we share as human beings,” he continued.
“Once the pandemic is over, theaters will be filled again with film lovers. That is my strong belief. Not because the movie industry needs it, but because we humans need cinema, as a collective experience,” he declared.
More recently speaking with Total Film via GamesRadar, Villeneuve expressed his dissatisfaction with Dune being shown on HBO Max.
He said, “First of all, the enemy of cinema is the pandemic. That’s the thing. We understand that the cinema industry is under tremendous pressure right now. That I get.”
However, he noted, “The way it happened, I’m still not happy. Frankly, to watch Dune on a television, the best way I can compare it is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub. For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience.”
Dune is expected to be released in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22, 2021.
What do you make of Villeneuve’s support of Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney?