Will Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow Lawsuit Change How Disney Deals With Actors? CEO Weighs In

By Russ Milheim Updated:
Scarlett Johansson Disney Avengers

Black Widow was a historic film. No, it wasn't the best reviewed film of the MCU, and it wasn't nearly the highest grossing one either––however, it was the first Marvel Studios film to debut on both a streaming platform and in theaters at the same time.

The box office landscape at the time was quite rocky, and Black Widow debuted a little too early to score a victory like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings did. The film did well for Disney+, but its box office numbers plummeted after its first weekend.

Then, things got interesting: Scarlett Johansson, the actor who has brought Natasha Romanoff to life for over a decade, decided to sue Disney. She claimed that Disney broke her contract when they decided to release her film on Disney+, and she had lost money because of it. 

This led to many questions and discussions about how to handle a world where streaming services could rival theaters in terms of debuting new content. Now, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has weighed in on how Disney is adapting to everything, especially after the recent lawsuit.

Scarlett Johansson's Responsible For Change

Black Widow Disney

At the recent Goldman Sachs 30th annual Communacopia Conference, Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke about the efforts of Disney+. With Scarlett Johansson's suit against Disney still prevalent, Chapek was asked about the compensation of Hollywood talent in today's age—especially with the rise of streaming platforms.

Chapek responded by saying that "talent deals going forward will have to reflect the face that the world is changing:"

“Disney has had a long history of having very symbiotic and cooperative deals with the talent and we will continue to... certainly the world is changing, and the talent deals going forward will have to reflect the fact that the world is changing.”

Continuing on, the CEO explored the concept of "putting a square peg in a round hole" relating to the conditions under which movies are released:

“We’re in a moment of time where films were envisioned under one understanding about what the world would be, because frankly it hadn’t changed much... remember those films were made three or four years ago; those deals were cut three or four years ago. Then they get launched in the middle of a global pandemic where that pandemic itself is accelerating a second dynamic, which is this changing consumer behavior. So, we’re sort of putting a square peg in a round hole right now where we’ve got a deal conceived under a certain set of conditions, that actually results in a movie that is being released in a completely different set of conditions.”

Chapek doubled down on the fact that "[they] are trying to do right by the talent," and that they'll always "compensate them fairly per the terms of the contract that they agreed to [then] with."

“So there’s a bit of rest going on right now. Ultimately, we’ll think about that as we do our future talent deals and plan for that and make sure that’s incorporated. But right now we have this sort of middle position, where we’re trying to do right by the talent, I think the talent is trying to do right by us, and we’re just figuring out our way to bridge the gap. Ultimately we believe our talent is our most important asset and we’ll continue to believe that, and as we always have, we’ll compensate them fairly per the terms of the contract that they agreed to us with.”

Black Widow Makes Waves

It's no surprise that Bob Chapek didn't address Scarlett Johansson directly, but rather instead tackled the questions that the entire situation brought to the forefront of the conversation.

While it's easy to assume that Disney is just saying the things that everyone wants to hear, clearly they must have done something right to have gotten Emma Stone to agree to another Cruella film––especially when she was rumored to have been considering legal action as well.

On the other end of that, however, is the Russo Brothers, who reportedly couldn't come to an agreement with Disney and Marvel Studios about their next collaboration. Supposedly, the directing duo couldn't guarantee how their project was to be distributed––something that is hard to nail down in times like these anyway.

- In This Article: Black Widow
Release Date
July 09, 2021
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.