Disney has hit back at Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit over the release of "Black Widow" by revealing her $20 million earnings from the project and stating that the litigation showed a "callous disregard" to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The harsh statement was released shortly after Johansson filed her lawsuit on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that the studio had gone back on its guarantee of an exclusive theatrical release of the film by releasing "Black Widow" to its streaming service Disney+. She said much of her salary was tied to its box-office performance.
"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," the statement cited by Deadline read. "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."
According to Johansson's filing, representatives claimed they sought assurances regarding the release of "Black Widow" as far back as 2019, when Disney executives suggested Marvel Cinematic Universe content would be available exclusively on Disney+. In her lawsuit, Johansson includes a response by Marvel’s chief counsel which confirmed that the film's release would run according to a traditional theatrical model.
"We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses," the response reads, according to CNBC.
"It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like 'Black Widow' directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price – and that it’s hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so," John Berlinski, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres who represents Johansson, told the outlet.
"But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court,” he said via email. “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts."
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