CAA co-chair Bryan Lourd has hit back at Disney in the growing storm over Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit, lambasting the studio for “shamelessly and falsely” accusing his client of being insensitive to the pandemic.
On Thursday Johansson filed legal papers alleging that Disney’s day-and-date release of Black Widow in cinemas and on Disney+ Premier Access constituted a breach of contract after she had been led to understand the film would get an exclusive theatrical release.
Studios have switched release strategies from exclusive theatrical to day-and-date or digital-only while the pandemic forced cinemas to close. Johansson asserts Disney adopted the strategy to grow its Disney+ subscriber base at the expense of potential box office revenue.
Disney responded, saying that the lawsuit was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”. The studio added that it had complied with her contract and the day-and-date release “significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20m she has received to date”.
“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,” Lourd said in a statement released on Friday (July 30). “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.”
Black Widow opened on a pandemic record $80m in North America over July 9-11 and according to the studio earned $60m on the platform. To date it has grossed more than $318m worldwide.