No, Scarlett Johansson Is Not Being ‘Greedy’ By Suing Disney

The actor claims she lost up to £36million in earnings after the film studio streamed Black Widow at the same time it was in theatres.

Scarlett Johansson

by Georgia Aspinall |

This morning, it was announced that Scarlett Johannsson is suing Disney for breach of contract following the release of her first lead superhero film, Black Widow, after the studio streamed the film on their platform, Disney+, at the same time as it’s cinema release.

Almost immediately, the story began trending on Google with ‘Scarlett Johansson suing Disney’ and ‘Scarlett Johansson suing marvel’ quickly becoming breakout search terms. Marvel Studios – known for the production of Marvel Cinematic Universe films like Black Widow - is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company – thus the connection.

The Disney+ streaming service offered users the chance to watch Black Widow while it was still in cinemas for an extra fee on top of the usual monthly subscription. For an extra £19.99, you could watch the superhero film starring Scarlett, Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh without heading to your local movie theatre.

So, what is the lawsuit all about? Here’s why Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney:

According to box office records, Black Widow grossed £157m in its first weekend in cinemas – a new record for the Covid-19 pandemic. However, box office receipts fell sharply afterwards, with Scarlett thus arguing that she was deprived of potential earnings.

Disney has since responded to Scarlett’s lawsuit, stating it has ‘no merit whatsoever’ and that they ‘fully complied’ with her contract.

The BBC is reporting that sources state her salary was based on the box office performance of the film, eliminating streaming revenue from her potential earnings, and thus the actor could’ve lost up to £36million in potential earnings. Black Widow sold £57million in ticket sales in North America, plus £56million internationally on its opening weekend. However, with Disney+ offering access from home, the film also sold £43million in premier access rentals.

Disney has countered the claim that Scarlett lost potential earnings, alleging that the dual release strategy had ‘significantly enhanced [Johansson's] ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20m she has received to date’.

It went on to state that her lawsuit was ‘especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic’.

However, Scarlett claims she was promised Black Widow would be a ‘theatrical release’ by Marvel Studios, and understood this to mean there would be a ‘window’ of time where the film was in cinemas before it was available to stream – which has typically been around 90 days in the past.

It’s rare that we find ourselves in a position to defend Scarlett. Her problematic behaviour in the past has made it difficult to support much of what she says and does. Only last month, Scarlett praised former Marvel movies director Joss Whedon - who was accused of workplace misconduct and abuse of power by the Buffy cast earlier this year – during an video interview about Black Widow while the other actors on the call grew visibly uncomfortable.

But on this occasion, many are jumping to defend her decision to pursue legal action. Namely, because she was first dubbed ‘greedy’ for doing so. ‘Scarlett Johansson: yet another millionaire with more money than anyone needs,’ one Twitter user wrote. ‘These people are greedy because they always want more but because she's in popular movies people will "stan"!’

‘Paid £20m and worried about lost earnings...greedy or what am I missing?!’ another added.

The case has implications beyond just Scarlett.

But actually, should Scarlett be able to prove her contract was breached by Disney – which they firmly deny – all the actor is doing is demanding what is owed to her. She might be a millionaire already, but does that mean she should settle for allegedly being taken advantage of financially? So what, once women reach a certain point of success, they no longer deserve the same support and empowerment we would grant any other in this particular circumstance?

More than that, it has implications beyond just Scarlett, because a successful case against a corporation as big as Disney would contribute to ensuring other actors – who may not have as much power nor privilege as she does – are not found to be in the same position.

To get all Disney about it, it’s ‘a tale as old as time’ that when women ask for what they believe they’re owed financially, they’re dubbed greedy. Would those scoffing at her lawsuit have the same reaction if Robert Downey Jr or Chris Evans made the same complaint?

Ultimately, whether Scarlett wins her case or not, she’s setting a good example by fighting for what she believes she’s owed.

Read More:

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