In a stunning turn of events, one of Marvel’s Avengers is suing Disney. On Thursday afternoon, The Wall Street Journal reported that Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson had filed suit against the company. Johansson alleges that Disney breached their contract by releasing Black Widow on Disney+ and in theaters at the same time. In the suit, Johansson said that her agreement with Disney guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. She also revealed that the film’s performance at the box office would have a significant impact on her salary.
According to the lawsuit, Disney and Johansson agreed that her salary would “be based largely” on box office returns. As a result, Johansson claims that she “extracted a promise from Marvel” that the release would be exclusively theatrical. The suit contends that Disney was aware of this promise, “but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release [Black Widow] on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres.”
The lawsuit then accuses Disney of luring viewers away from the theater to grow the subscriber base of its streaming service while devaluing Johansson’s deal. The lawsuit also states that Disney ignored Johansson when she reached out the discuss the distribution of Black Widow.
Scarlett Johansson vs. Disney could get ugly
By the time Disney launched its streaming service in 2019, Johansson and Disney had already made a deal. When Disney+ arrived, Johansson’s representation reached out to ensure that Marvel would be holding up its end of that deal, in spite of the launch of Disney+. According to the lawsuit, this is the response Marvel’s chief counsel, David Galluzzi, sent back:
We totally understand that Scarlett’s willingness to do the film and her whole deal is based on the premise that the film would be widely theatrically released like our other pictures. 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.
In March, Disney announced that Black Widow would debut on Disney+ Premier Access and in theaters simultaneously. Johansson’s representatives reached out to Marvel after the announcement, but they claim that Marvel ignored them. Thus, Johansson’s only option was to file a lawsuit.
At the time of writing, Disney has yet to comment on the suit. However this turns out, it’s probably safe to assume that we won’t be seeing Johansson’s Black Widow on screen again any time soon.