Update: Much like a deadly black widow spider when it feels threatened, Scarlett Johansson is ready to strike back at Disney for what the actress feels is a “misogynistic” response to her recent lawsuit filing against the studio.
“After initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson, Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration,” said Johansson’s primary lawyer John Berlinski today after Disney released an offensive response to the ongoing lawsuit. “Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?”
“Because it knows that Marvel’s promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release ‘like its other films’ had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn’t cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions,” Berlinski adds, knowing that Johansson’s contract provides for arbitration in the event of discrepancies. “Yet that is exactly what happened – and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it.”
What prompted this strong response from Johansson’s legal team, you ask? Well, it turns out that Disney doesn’t like it when you decide to air their dirty laundry in view of the public. Late last night (Friday), Disney issued the following statement regarding its ongoing troubles with Johanson and her team:
“Periwinkle agreed that all claims ‘arising out of, in connection with, or relating to’ Scarlett Johansson’s acting services for Black Widow would be submitted to confidential, binding arbitration in New York,” says the motion filed in LA Superior Court on Friday by Disney’s outside lawyers Daniel Petrocelli, Leah Godesky and Tim Heafner of O’Melveny & Myers LLP. (You can read the filing in full here).
“Whether Periwinkle’s claims against Disney fall within the scope of that agreement is not a close call: Periwinkle’s interference and inducement claims are premised on Periwinkle’s allegation that Marvel breached the contract’s requirement that any release of Black Widow includes a ‘wide theatrical release’ on ‘no less than 1,500 screens,” the motion adds, putting the screws to Johansson’s filing. “The plain and expansive language of the arbitration agreement easily encompasses Periwinkle’s Complaint.”
Oh, but it gets uglier. “In a futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing), Periwinkle excluded Marvel as a party to this lawsuit––substituting instead its parent company Disney under contract-interference theories,” O’Melveny & Myers attorneys point out. “But longstanding principles do not permit such gamesmanship.”
Reports indicate that Disney wants an October 15 hearing in DTLA on the arbitration matter. Whether or not their request will be granted remains to be seen. This bid to explore the complaints in a court of law comes after Marvel and Disney served Johansson (Periwinkle) a demand for confidential arbitration in New York.
Wild stuff, right? Regardless of who you think is in the right, this case has already created big waves in Hollywood as the interest in pushing marquee film releases to streaming services continues. What once was a temporary solution to the pandemic is now a complicated web of legalese and questionable conduct.
“As of August 15, 2021, the Picture has grossed more than $367 million in worldwide box-office receipts and more than $125 million in streaming and download retail receipts.”
Obviously, this matter is far from over, and we could be looking at a very different environment once the dust has settled. Hold onto your butts, folks. This lawsuit stands to shake things up quite a bit.
Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney is escalating faster than a flattie spider can spin its web. On Thursday, Johansson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney, alleging that her contract was breached when the studio released Black Widow on its Disney+ streaming platform. Johansson attests that her arrangement with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment would bring Black Widow exclusively to theaters. She also says that the agreement involved her salary for the film being based on its box-office performance.
One star who is said to be contemplating a lawsuit is Cruella‘s Emma Stone. According to Former THR Editor Matt Belloni, “Emma Stone, star of Cruella, is said to be weighing her options.” He also noted that Disney is “notoriously difficult to deal with,” when it comes to its legal matters being in the public spotlight. After all, you don’t maintain a squeaky-clean image after having your name dragged through the mud.
Not long after the details of Johansson’s suit went public, Disney fired back with a response that left many of Johansson’s reps, friends, and fans feeling uneasy about the exchange.
“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. 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,” a Disney spokesperson said.
Now, CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd is speaking out against Disney for what he considers to be a combative response to the issue at hand.
“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 as a part of his public address. He also points out that Johansson has helped Disney make billions of dollars over the course of nine films.
You can read Lourd’s full statement below:
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.
In addition to Lourd calling Disney out for their “callous” response, Johansson’s move to sue Disney may trigger a ripple effect throughout Hollywood. Even as I type this, reports are starting to crop up that revolve around actors rethinking their contracts for films released during the pandemic, as well as those bound for streaming services in general.
“Good for her,” said one Hollywood talent agent. “A lot of other actors are cheering for Scarlett and rooting her on. She has a lot of power and that makes this a visible conversation that puts Disney on the spot. By doing all of this in public, she might be able to change the rulebook.”
Something tells me that this matter is far from over and that we’ll be hearing about it for days, maybe weeks to come. One thing’s for sure, the result of this lawsuit could change the way actors negotiate their contracts as streaming services continue to be an important aspect of the movie industry. Hold onto your butts, Mouseketeers. This could get uglier than a Brazilian Wandering Spider on a bad day.