Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over breach of contract after Marvel released Black Widow on Disney Plus
Scarlett Johansson’s starring role as Black Widow in the film of the same name is a long time coming as the actress has been playing the iconic Marvel hero for years. After years of waiting for a Marvel flick centering Natasha Romanoff, we finally got Black Widow, but because we are in a pandemic, after all, the film didn’t get the classic theatrical release we expect from Marvel flicks and instead opened in both theaters and on Disney Plus on the same day. Unfortunately, this isn’t sitting well with Johansson, who is suing Disney for breach of contract.
Per Variety, Johansson’s lawyers say that her contract was breached when the studio opted not to debut the film exclusively in theaters, which is what she agreed to because most of her compensation was tied to the box office performance of the movie, i.e. if it hit certain benchmarks, she would get bonuses. Because they also released the film on Disney Plus for $30 a pop, the box office results were not quite what ScarJo imagined when she signed a contract that tied her paycheck to the box office results. In fact, ticket sales for Black Widow currently sit $319 million globally, making it one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies.
On the one hand, what did ScarJo expect when her movie opened during a pandemic? Maybe she wanted to push the release date back until everyone was vaccinated and could go to theaters again? That’s fair. On the other hand, her lawyers pointed out that Disney’s stock rose after the company disclosed that the movie made $60 million in streaming fees, meaning, Disney profited from the new arrangement, but ScarJo didn’t.
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit reads. “Disney chose to placate Wall Street investors and pad its bottom line, rather than allow its subsidiary Marvel to comply with the agreement.”
A source close to the actress told The Wall Street Journal that the decision to release the film concurrently on Disney Plus resulted in $50 million in lost bonuses for Johansson. Yowza. The suit claims she tried to renegotiate her contract when the release strategy changed, but the studio reportedly didn’t get back to her.
Interestingly, Johansson missed a lot of press events for the movie earlier this month and didn’t attend the premiere. It was later revealed that she is reportedly expecting a child with her husband Colin Jost, so some figured that the possible pregnancy somehow complicated her publicity agreements, but now this lawsuit seems to shed some light on what is really going on behind the scenes of Black Widow.