Black Widow is bracing for a new epic battle — this time, though, it won’t be against Thanos, it’ll be against her corporate overlords at Disney. Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over their Black Widow streaming release, alleging that the debut of her latest Marvel movie on Disney+ was a breach of her contract.
The star of Marvel’s latest blockbuster has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney, reports The Wall Street Journal.
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realising the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit reads.
Disney has been releasing some of their slate simultaneously on Disney+ and in cinemas as a result of the pandemic, uploading big releases like Cruella and this weekend’s Jungle Cruise to their Disney+ Premier Access tier that comes with an extra price tag. At the time, it’s unclear whether or not Disney plans to move forward with the plan — but similar Marvel films like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are still slated to hit cinemas exclusively before streaming.
“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 honour its contracts,” said John Berlinski, an lawyer representing Johansson.
Warner Bros. is following a similar path in the US this year, releasing its entire slate of 2021 movies straight to US streaming service HBO Max for free and streaming them for 31 days on the platform. But WarnerMedia also renegotiated talent contracts that were tied to box office revenue, whereas Johannsson’s similar deal with Marvel was not. For example: Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins received $13.5 million each as part of a new Wonder Woman 84 HBO Max release. According to WSJ, Warner Bros. paid over $270 million to talent as part of the new agreements.
According to the complaint, Johansson’s representatives sought to renegotiate her contract after hearing about the simultaneous release strategy for Black Widow. But both Disney and Marvel were reportedly unresponsive, and sources told the journal that ScarJo has lost more than $67 million as a result of the Disney+ release.
This issue stems way back before the pandemic even became an issue for in-cinema experiences. According to the complaint, Johansson was worried about Black Widow would end up on Disney+ as a part of its wide release all the way back in 2019. After seeking reassurance that it would release exclusively in cinemas, Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galuzzi reportedly assured ScarJo’s reps over email it would not land on Disney+.
“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,” Galuzzi wrote back in a March 2019 email.
Johansson has had a key role in the MCU since 2010, where she made her debut as superspy Natasha Romanoff, who operates under the hero alias of Black Widow. She has since starred in the Avengers films, but Black Widow was her first stand-alone film.