Disney Says Scarlett Johansson's Lawsuit Has 'No Merit'

by Kristina Johnson

The Black Widow star is suing for breach of contract over the Marvel blockbuster

Disney has wasted no time responding to Scarlett Johannson’s lawsuit over Black Widow. The company came out swinging in a statement that accuses the actress of ignoring the pandemic’s effect on the world. “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 said in a statement to Deadline. “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.”

To those of us who aren’t making eight figures, the fact that Johansson has already banked $20 million is eyepopping. But what the star’s lawyers argue is that she lost out on far bigger sum because Disney released the film on its signature streaming service, taking a big bite out of ticket sales.

Because Scarjo’s contract linked her paycheck to the box office, her legal team says she lost out on an additional $50 million — money that would have been hers if Disney hadn’t decided to put the movie on Disney Plus for $30 a pop. The blockbuster quickly raked in $60 million from streaming alone, and another $315 million or so in ticket sales — lower than other Marvel films that didn’t have the misfortune to be released during a pandemic.

Scarlett’s lawsuit says she was promised by Marvel — which is in turn owned by Disney — that Black Widow would be a theatrical release only for the first few months, and clearly that didn’t happen. Scarjo says that decision was motivated by Disney wanting to line its own pockets by generating more subscribers for Disney Plus– something the filing claims is “a proven way to boost Disney’s stock price.” Johansson’s attorney told Deadline that Disney was simply ” hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext to do so.”

Scarjo is now seeking both monetary and punitive damages from Disney to resolve the suit. As a Marvel fan, I can’t help but be a bit bummed that one of the few female-led actions films the studio has produced is turning into an ugly legal battle, and I have to wonder if one with a male star would have to go through the same fight.

Unless the two sides came come to an agreement before a trial — it’ll be up to a judge to decide who’s in the right.