Scarlett Johansson, also known as Black Widow/ Natasha Romanoff for her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has recently filed a lawsuit against the House of Mouse. Not too long ago, on the 9th of July, Johansson’s final reprisal of a Marvel character was released, ending her 11 year run as Black Widow. Now after a “breach in contract”, as Scarlett Johansson put it, the relationship ended less than happily.In March of this year, Disney made a very surprising decision. To give “Black Widow” both theatrical run and a digital release on their streaming platform, Disney+. Simultaneously. Without a doubt, everyone was skeptical about this decision. They hadn’t released a movie since 2019 and the first one they would release in almost 2 years having a digital premier would definitely hurt them. Disney went on with it anyways. Like everyone said, “Black widow” did indeed suffer from their decision. Theatre owners from all over blasted the decision once more as box office numbers tanked in the film’s second week out. However, Scarlett Johansson’s response to the situation is probably the most impactful. She sued Disney for a breach in contract, as her contract for the “Black Widow” movie ensured her a purely theatrical run. Her salary therefore was largely tied to the performance of the movie at the box office, with the contract also setting her up to receive bonuses when the film hit certain targets at the box office. A Disney+ release would obviously damage this, and the lawsuit argues this as well, the hybrid release strategy would cut into Black Widow’s box office profits, and therefore significantly impact the amount that she was projected to make from the movie. And it has. Scarlett Johansson reportedly has a projected loss of a whopping $50 million because of this. Disney, on the other hand, seems to be fighting back against this.
Disney responds to the situation, not by reacting in any meaningful way to the actual basis of the lawsuit, but in a more superficial “No I didn’t, how dare you” manner. The statement starts with “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing” and that’s about it concerning the lawsuit at hand. To be fair they did add “Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.” but this is more or less the initial sentence with extra steps, while also leaving out how much money she lost. The most interesting part about the statement was when they said “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” This just sounds like “We can’t find any reason to justify our actions so let’s make her the villain.” I think everyone can see that much.
Disney’s largely irrelevant accusation that the lawsuit shows a “callous disregard” for the pandemic and clear attempt at villainizing Johansson by way of threatening her public image seem to hold little sway as public opinion so far seems to be on her side. It all comes down to whether or not Scarlett Johansson and her legal team can prove damages. Let’s see how far Disney’s financial self-interest will get them.
By: Joshua Osifo
See Also: Our ‘Black Widow’ Review