‘Black Widow’ Scarlett Johansson Lawsuit: Actress’ Agent Slams Disney For “Direct Attack On Her Character” & Leaving Talent Out Of Streaming Profit Equation

CAA co-chairman and Scarlett Johansson’s agent Bryan Lourd issued a statement Friday in response to Disney’s harsh slam against the Black Widow actress in her breach of contact lawsuit versus the Burbank studio.

On Thursday, Disney shamed the two-time Oscar nominee by saying her lawsuit showed “callous disregard” for the pandemic — the latter of which has been the studio’s excuse for taking Black Widow day-and-date in theaters on and Disney+ Premier. Disney also outed her $20 million salary for the film, which it claims that coupled with the Disney+ monies of the MCU title “significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation.”

Below is Lourd’s statement:

I want to address the Walt Disney Company’s statement that was issued in response to the lawsuit filed against them yesterday by our client Scarlett Johansson. They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.

Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions. The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.  Scarlett is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade.

This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract. They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation.  That’s it, pure and simple.

Disney’s direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades.

Johansson’s breach of contract lawsuit (read it here) was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday, and is the first public slam by a Hollywood star against a studio that’s reaping money by crushing theatrical windows at the expense of talent in exchange for spiking its stock price for the sake of its newfound streaming service. Disney’s stock price in the wake of Disney+ has hit a 52-week high of $203.02; shares are now trading at $176.90 at the time of this report.

The actress’ contract with Disney called for a wide theatrical release, much like other MCU movies. Reports have it that Johansson lost more than $50M in Disney’s dynamic window experiment, which yielded a first-weekend global PVOD and theatrical weekend for Black Widow of $218M. Black Widow will be lucky to hit $350M worldwide at the box office, a low gross for an MCU title, which typically churns out of late over $1 billion. The National Association of Theatre Owners slammed Disney during the pic’s second weekend for moving PVOD money forward. All of this means in the end that Black Widow will make less money in its total revenue life cycle. Universal’s F9, which has respected the theatrical window, looks to do double what Black Widow does at the global box office.

“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price – and that it’s hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext to do so,” Johansson’s attorney, John Berlinski of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, said in a statement Thursday. “But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court. 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 honor its contracts.”

Those profiting off Black Widow the most per the lawsuit are Disney titans CEO Bob Chapek and executive chairman Bob Iger, who reaped big money tied to the success of Disney+.

“Disney’s financial disclosures make clear that the very Disney executives who orchestrated this strategy will personally benefit from their and Disney’s misconduct,” as it identifies Chapek’s equity grants “totaling 3.8 times his $2.5 million base salary” in 2021, with the “primary justification” for that award being the launch of direct-to-consumer services. The lawsuit also notes that Iger received the “overwhelming majority” of his $16.5 million compensation in the form of stock grants, with the company’s annual report citing the growth of Disney+.

Johansson has had starring credits in seven MCU movies that have amassed $10.3 billion at the global box office. Separately she had a voice-over role in Disney’s live-action version of The Jungle Book which grossed $966.6M WW, and their Searchlight acquired Oscar-nominated Jojo Rabbit which made $90.3M WW.

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.