Representatives for Scarlett Johansson say the Marvel star was "shocked" by the tone of Disney's response to her streaming lawsuit over the day-and-date release of Black Widow, which her agent slammed as a "direct attack on her character." Johansson filed suit Thursday, alleging breach of contract over the studio's failure to fulfill the "promise" of an exclusive theatrical release and potential performance compensation by making the Marvel Studios movie available to stream on Disney+ the same day it opened in theaters. Disney quickly fired back at the "sad and distressing" filing, accusing the Black Widow star and producer of "callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic" that the company says was the reason for the movie's hybrid release.
"The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic," reads the Thursday statement from a Disney spokesperson. The studio "fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract," the response continues, adding "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."
Johansson's agent and CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd hit back at Disney in his own statement, shaming the conglomerate for "shamelessly and falsely accus[ing] 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."
"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," reads the statement from Lourd, who said the lawsuit was filed "as a result of Disney's decision to knowingly violate Scarlett's contract."
Lourd added: "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... 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."
Marvel Studios President and producer Kevin Feige is reportedly "angry and embarrassed" by parent company Disney's reaction to the lawsuit.
According to former Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni, "company man" Feige "lobbied Disney against the day-and-date plan for Black Widow, preferring the big screen exclusivity and not wanting to upset his talent. And then when the sh-t hit the fan, the movie started tanking, and Johansson's team threatened litigation, he wanted Disney to make this right with her."
Even before filing her lawsuit in July, Johansson was not expecting to reprise her role as Natasha Romanoff in future films or series from Marvel Studios after Black Widow. After Natasha died in Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow marked a sendoff for the character Johansson debuted in 2010's Iron Man 2 before returning as a main player in multiple Captain America and Avengers movies.