Scarlett Johansson was reportedly shocked by the Walt Disney Company's response to her Black Widow pay lawsuit. Last week, Johansson sued Disney for an alleged breach of contract by releasing Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access at the same time, arguing that the move hampered the Marvel movie's success at the box office. In a response that surprised many in Hollywood, Disney called the lawsuit "sad and distressing" and publicly revealed Johansson received $20 million for the film.
On Monday, insiders told The Wrap that Disney's widely-panned response to the situation may have been the responsibility of CEO Bob Chapek. Many of the insiders were surprised the situation became public at all, and suggested that Chapek's inexperience with talent and movie stars may be to blame. "Pretty sure Chapek made the mistake. He didn't think it would blow up in his face. He doesn't deal with talent," one producer who remained anonymous told The Wrap.
Johansson's representatives told The Wrap she was "shocked by the tone" of Disney's response to the lawsuit, which shockingly accused Johansson of showing "callous disregard" for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Johansson's agent, CAA co-chairman Bryan Loud, previously issued a statement calling out Disney's response as a "direct attack" on the actress' character. "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," Lourd said in part.
Black Widow hit theaters on July 9, but it was also released on Disney+, where subscribers had to pay a $30 premium to watch the movie from home. The movie opened to $80.4 million at the box office, and Disney claimed it made another $60 million just from Disney+ sales. However, the film dropped 67% in its second weekend, the biggest second-week drop from a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It was after the second-week numbers came in that Johansson filed her lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. "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," Johansson's suit read.
While the lawsuit sparked a debate in Hollywood on how movie stars should be paid in a world where movies are both in theaters and available to stream, Disney's public response opened a whole new can of worms. "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 studio said. "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."
In Lourd's response, he alleged that Disney "knowingly" violated Johansson's original contract for the film. "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," he said. "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."
There have also been reports that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is not happy with Disney's response, especially after he worked with Johansson on nine movies. Feige is "angry and embarrassed" by the response, journalist Matthew Belloni reported in his What I'm Hearing newsletter. Feige was reportedly not happy with the streaming release of Black Widow because he understood his stars wouldn't be pleased. Feige and his representatives have not commented.
While Black Widow did see a major drop in its second week, it is still one of the biggest box office hits since the pandemic began. Since its release, the movie has made $167 million domestically and $176.5 million internationally, according to Box Office Mojo. Only F9 has made more money domestically this year.