In a lawsuit for breach of contract that could have changed the face of talent/studio negotiations, Disney has instead settled with Scarlett Johansson. This comes after Disney released the epic, and highly anticipated Black Widow in a theatrical window that included a simultaneous Disney+ run, arguably boosting their subscribers off of Scarlett’s talent draw.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, of the settlement both teams have released statements. “I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” stated Johansson. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”
Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman added: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”
The explosive suit, filed by the actress in July in Los Angeles Superior Court, claimed that the studio sacrificed the film’s box office potential in order to grow its fledgling Disney+ streaming service. Disney countered that Johansson was paid $20 million for the film.
The settlement brings to a close a back-and-forth PR battle that pitted the CAA-repped star against Disney and was poised to have dramatic implications for all of Hollywood’s major studios. Alot of major A-List stars publicly sided with Scarlett Johansson in the crossfires. In her complaint, Johansson said the Marvel tentpole had been guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release when she signed her deal. She alleged that her contract was breached when the film was simultaneously released on Disney+.
Black Widow, which has earned $379 million at the worldwide box office to date, debuted at the same time in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30. But in what was viewed by rival studio executives as a major miscalculation, Disney boasted July 11 that Black Widow earned $60 million via Disney+ Premier Access, opening the door for a fierce clash. After all, Johansson had been considering litigation for several months, says a source familiar with the suit. Until the afternoon of July 28, she believed Disney would make an offer and that she wouldn’t have to file a suit. But Disney stayed in the mode of, “Let’s keep talking,” the source adds. Johansson was particularly incensed by the announcement, which pleased Wall Street but not the talent and representation community.
According to the complaint, Disney’s move “not only increased the value of Disney+, but it also intentionally saved Marvel (and thereby itself) what Marvel itself referred to as ‘very large box office bonuses’ that Marvel otherwise would have been obligated to pay Ms. Johansson.”
“The exception is when there’s so much money involved or if there’s a level of acrimony that has reached a point of no return, and people are going to stand on principle,” attorney James Sammataro tells THR. “That statement by Disney confirmed the latter, but it still is a shocking statement to make — to paint someone as being insensitive and playing the whole, ‘You’re so out of touch’ card. You could probably make the same argument about Disney; ‘Yeah. You’ve been generating millions, if not billions, during the pandemic.’”
In the wake of Scarlett Johansson’s suit, more than a handful of other A-listers were said to be considering filing similar suits. (Jungle Cruise star Dwayne Johnson was not one of them, given that he has a different compensation structure than Johansson.) As of now, that has not come to fruition yet.