Scarlett Johansson’s $50 million contract dispute with Disney over her starring role in “Black Widow” just got uglier, with her powerful Hollywood agent accusing the Mouse House of dirty tactics.
Bryan Lourd, who is the co-chairman of talent agency CAA, called out the Mouse House on Friday for “shamelessly and falsely” accusing his client of being “insensitive” to the pandemic and for publishing her pay package to the press “in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman.”
Late Thursday, Disney fired off a brutal statement after news broke that the “Black Widow” star filed a lawsuit claiming that her contract was breached when the media giant released the superhero flick on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time it hit movie theaters.
Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the decision to put the blockbuster on Disney+ is likely to cost Johansson more than $50 million.
Disney said the suit had “no merit” and that it “is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” In an uncharacteristic move, the buttoned-up company also disclosed that Johansson earned additional compensation on top of her $20 million salary from the movie.
“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 a statement Friday.
The agent, who represents megastars like Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Daniel Craig, said Johansson has been a great partner to Disney on nine movies, earning the company and shareholders “billions.”
Lourd likewise punched back at Disney for attempting to “weaponize” Johansson’s “success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”
“This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract,” he said. “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.”
Johansson’s lawsuit claims that her contract with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment guaranteed that “Black Widow” would premiere exclusively in theaters and that her salary was based largely on how well the movie performed at the box office.
The actress claims that she attempted to renegotiate her contract with Disney and Marvel to take streaming profits into account but was given the cold shoulder.
During the pandemic, media giants like Comcast’s NBCUniversal and AT&T’s WarnerMedia began prioritizing streaming services over movie theaters, putting some of their buzziest new releases onto their streaming platforms.
The shift has major financial implications for actors, producers, directors and the like who want to ensure that the growth in streaming doesn’t come at their expense.