Scarlett Johansson finally received her solo film that was almost a decade in the making with 2021’s Black Widow. The film was set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the latter in which she sacrifices herself for the Soul Stone.
Black Widow was released during the COVID-19 pandemic and earned $379 million despite a same-day streaming release. The streaming release was not part of the initial plan and hence, Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney for the decision. After a long battle, she finally won despite the studio’s then-CEO Bob Chapek’s disapproval of her actions.
Why Did Scarlett Johansson File A Lawsuit Against Disney?
While Scarlett Johansson made appearances in non-Avengers films, talks of a solo film were being made since Iron Man 2 and the film was in development after hints of the character’s past were revealed in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, no progress was made and the Romanoff sacrificed her life for the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame.
A solo Black Widow film set before the events of Endgame began production and was supposed to be released in May 2020. The film starred Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz. However, the COVID-19 pandemic became an obstacle and Disney postponed the release date to November 2020, and then July 2021.
When Warner Bros. decided to opt for a same-day streaming release plan, Disney too tried to follow suit in order to push their streaming platform Disney Plus. Tentpole films like Black Widow and Mulan were released under this plan. The move was not appreciated by Johansson who filed for a lawsuit as she had a deal that gave her a share in the box-office profits.
According to the book MCU: Reign of Marvel Studios, her lawyers argued,
“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?”
Scarlett Johansson won the lawsuit and while the terms were undisclosed, it was reported that the actress was paid close to $40 million by Disney.
Disney CEO Called Scarlett Johansson Greedy
The lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson came at a time when many other studios were opting for same-day streaming due to the pandemic drastically affecting the theatrical business. Warner Bros. studios came under fire from its own directors such as Dennis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan criticizing the move. The studio also paid Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins $10 million instead of their promised bonus after releasing Wonder Woman 1984 on streaming.
The release strategy and lawsuit reportedly caused a rift in the relationship between Johansson and Marvel President Kevin Feige as his efforts were overruled by Disney CEO Bob Chapek. The executive was appointed in 2020 and was more focused on increasing profits than being creatively involved.
According to the book MCU: Reign of Marvel Studios, Feige approached Chapek to make things right with Johansson. However, Chapek reportedly implied that the actress was greedy as she was paid $20 million for the film. Johansson’s lawyers argued that the studio leveraged her fame and the character’s IP to push more subscribers to Disney Plus.
While Disney argued that the box office earnings of Black Widow were good despite the same-day streaming, the lawsuit was finally settled. The same-day streaming strategy was finally stopped after films such as Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were directly released to theatres and were successful.