As the old screenwriting adage goes, "there's no story without conflict."
Unfortunately for Marvel Studios, life imitated art in 2021 as a legal battle between Marvel star Scarlett Johansson and Disney created some serious in-studio conflict for all to see.
Due to the pandemic, Johansson's Black Widow film was released in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on the same day in July 2021 as a way to enable more fans to watch the movie. Weeks later, Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney due to the company's failure to renegotiate her original contract following the film's modified release.
Disney, led by new CEO Bob Chapek, fired back, resulting in a backlash from MCU talent and drawing public ire. This prompted Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige to admit he was "angry and embarrassed" and wanted Disney "to make this right."
Kevin Feige Thinks CEO Chapek is Underestimated
In an article about the Disney Company transitioning from former-CEO Bob Iger to their new leader in Bob Chapek, Feige declined to address the Johansson lawsuit with The Hollywood Reporter.
Instead, he offered a more positive view of the new CEO, admitting that he thinks he is "a creative guy, a nice guy, a real guy" and that the CEO offers “just enough of an opinion to give good feedback."
Feige recalled past experiences with Chapek that impressed the Marvel Studios President, including his involvement in Disney transforming its Tower of Terror attraction at the Disneyland Resort into the new Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! ride.
Apparently, Chapek recorded songs for the attraction's Guardians-esque soundtrack, leading Feige to realize that "this guy goes deep when it comes to contemporary artists.”
Feige also noted that Chapek installed a Dole Whip machine - a theme park snack with a cult following - in Marvel offices following the release of Avengers: Endgame to celebrate the studio's success, which he thought was "pretty cool."
Feige Caught Between MCU Stars & Disney?
The lawsuit between Johnasson and Disney put Feige and Marvel Studios in an awkward middle position.
On one hand, Disney's acquisition of Marvel Studios has only been beneficial for both parties, allowing Marvel to expand beyond the big screen with Disney+ series and theme parks and attractions.
However, Scarlett Johansson has been a mainstay within the MCU for more than a decade. Disney's aggressive approach to her complaints led other Marvel stars and talent to not only lend their support but also reflect on their future with Marvel under the Disney umbrella.
Now that Johansson and the House of Mouse have reached a truce, Feige's best strategy for all parties concerned is to move forward instead of continuing to stoke the tension between MCU talent and Marvel's parent company.
While he expressed his disapproval of Disney's handling of the lawsuit, the fact remains that Disney and Chapek aren't going anywhere; and Marvel Studios has more park attractions, Disney+ series, and potentially record-breaking films in the works to get caught up on a now-settled dispute.
Acknowledging the good Chapek has done in regard to Marvel is an olive branch that may create opportunities for Disney to better treat Feige's Marvel stars instead of more of the same.
Although, just how Marvel talent will perceive Feige's role as the peacemaker, and where that effort goes from here, remains to be seen.
Marvel Studios' Black Widow is available to stream now on Disney+.