Scarlett Johansson’s move to file a claim in court against The Walt Disney Co. for a breach of contract could be the first salvo in a series of uncomfortable conversations between studios and talent. At the heart of the conflict is money, but also the loyalty that studios show to their top talent as the industry continues to create an exit strategy from the pandemic shutdown, and the evolution of the method in which major blockbusters are released. Following news that Johansson is upset with Marvel’s parent company, Disney, we all wondered what Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige’s reaction would be to the public dust up. As expected, he’s not pleased.
Kevin Feige has run a tight ship at Marvel Studios, one that has cruised along on relatively stable waters. This public spat between one of his core Avengers, Johansson, and the studio who backs the MCU has to be a concern. The Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni covered Feige’s concerns in his latest newsletter (via ComicBook.com), and shared this insider information:
[Feige is] a company man, and not prone to corporate showdowns or shouting matches. But I’m told he’s angry and embarrassed. He lobbied Disney against the day-and-date plan for Black Widow, preferring the big screen exclusivity and not wanting to upset his talent. And then when the shit hit the fan, the movie started tanking, and Johansson’s team threatened litigation, he wanted Disney to make this right with her.
Except, Disney didn’t. And its response to the lawsuit was to say that Scarlett Johansson’s claims overlook the devastating impact of the global pandemic. The statement released by The Walt Disney Co., in part, reads:
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. 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.
Now the question becomes, “Will Kevin Feige come out in public and toss his formidable support in one direction?” Given the sentiments shared above, it seems like Feige would like to be able to defend his talent, which is understandable. What is Marvel if not for the actors who helped the incredibly talented producer build this superhero empire? At the same time, Feige understands where his bread is buttered (for now), and likely just hopes for a quiet solution that keeps the peace, and also establishes a precedent so that this matter doesn’t become a problem down the line.
The next Marvel Studios movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is a theatrical exclusive. For now. It opens on September 3. Be sure to check out our complete guide to the Upcoming MCU Movies to see when your most anticipated feature is opening near you.