A week after Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney over her “Black Widow” compensation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, chatter about the case has not calmed down.
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris weighed in on Friday with a lengthy statement blasting Disney saying: “Nobody in any field of work should fall victim to surprise reductions in expected compensation. It is unreasonable and unjust.”
Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions, also weighed in last week about the ramifications of the legal action and how it could impact other talent. He tells THR: “It’s a much bigger existential fight that she’s really leading. It’s a very difficult thing to do, it’s really brave to do and she’s fighting for all of talent.”
Daniel Petrocelli, a longtime attorney at Disney, tells Variety that the demands of the litigation are far out of the bounds of her contract with the studio and has harsh words about it:
“It is obvious that this is a highly orchestrated PR campaign to achieve an outcome that is not obtainable in the lawsuit. No amount of public pressure can change or obscure the explicit contractual commitments. The written contract is clear as a bell.”
Adding to all this is that Johansson’s contract is with Marvel Studios, but the lawsuit was filed against Disney on the thesis that Disney’s corporate priorities to support its SVOD platforms were imposed on Marvel.
The main issue is the day-and-date release of the film both in theaters and online via the Disney+ Premier Access platform was seen as limiting the movie’s box-office prospects and thus denying Johansson the chance to achieve certain box-office thresholds that would result in bonuses kicking in.
Petrocelli counters this, telling the trade that Disney+ Premier Access revenue is factored into the box-office tally for the purpose of computing bonuses: “We treated Disney Premier Access (revenue) like box office for the purposes of the bonus requirements in the contract. That only enhanced the economics for Ms. Johansson.”
Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski criticized Disney’s initial statement about the lawsuit last week as a: “bullying and misogynistic personal attack against Scarlett Johansson” and calls Petrocelli’s comments “a desperate attempt” at image rehabilitation.
Petrocelli acknowledges the conflict is heightened by an industry in transition as talent contracts and compensation formulas haven’t kept up with the changes in how movies and TV is produced and distributed.