Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson’s legal battle with Disney has become Hollywood’s “clash of titans” with Women in Film, ReFrame and Time’s Up, in a statement, accusing the Walt Disney Company of a gendered character attack.
Johansson filed a lawsuit alleging that the studio breached her contract when it released Black Widow simultaneously in theatres and on Disney+, a move she claims potentially cost her as much $50 million. A Disney spokesperson described the lawsuit as “especially sad and distressing” in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement, Women in Film, ReFrame and Time’s Up zeroed in on comments about the pandemic and Johansson’s salary. “While we take no position on the business issues in the litigation between Scarlett Johansson and the Walt Disney Company, we stand firmly against Disney’s recent statement which attempts to characterize Johansson as insensitive or selfish for demanding her contractual business rights,” the statement reads. “This gendered character attack has no place in a business dispute and contributes to an environment in which women and girls are perceived as less able than men to protect their own interests without facing ad hominem criticism.”
Bryan Lourd, CAA co-chair, in a rare public statement said they have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID-19 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 the press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of. Scarlet 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.”
A Hollywood talent agent said a lot of other actors are cheering for Scarlett and rooting on her. “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.” So far, Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista is the only Marvel actor to publicly comment on the situation, and Alec Baldwin supported #TeamScarlett on Twitter.
Johansson’s case, as per Variety, is the first to break into open view, rather than being settled quietly, either through negotiation or arbitration. It appears to be emboldening other stars, with industry insiders saying that several Disney actors are considering their own legal challenges. That could create a cascade effect, one that could prove costly to Disney if they have to cut talent in on a bigger piece of the overall pie.