Black Widow: Disney CEO discusses Scarlett Johansson lawsuit and the future of Hollywood

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit with Disney has officially been settled. But that lawsuit had a lot of people talking because of how it could impact the future of the industry.

COVID-19 has fast-tracked the inevitable changes Hollywood is going through now. Studios have had to modify their perspective on film releases, for better or worse—and adapting to that change isn’t always easy. That became the starting point for Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney over her payment for Black Widow.

Now that lawsuit has been privately settled, we can reflect on the conversations that it started and how it might have affected the industry.

How the Black Widow lawsuit could have affected the industry

So, how did it affect the industry? Well, Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO, indirectly spoke about how the case demonstrates how the studio, and the industry as a whole, must adapt. Back during Goldman Sachs’ 30th annual Communacopia Conference, Chapek publicly and indirectly addressed the situation with Johansson.

The Lawsuit was for an alleged breach of contract involving the simultaneous release of Black Widow in theaters and as part of Disney+‘s “Premier Access” service earlier this year. The CEO avoided speaking directly about Scarlett Johansson, Disney, and Black Widow, but did acknowledge that the way studios should approach talent deals has changed in recent years. He went on to say:

"“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.”"

He then followed that up by assuring those listening that Disney’s talent is their “most important asset” and that they will “compensate them fairly per the terms of the contract that they agreed”.

What others had to say about the Scarlett Johansson/Disney lawsuit

Scarlett Johansson suing Disney over Black Widow was obviously huge news. The MCU has mostly been hit after hit with very little issues and not much drama. ScarJo has been part of the franchise since Iron Man 2 in 2010, just over a decade now. Disney+ isn’t the first streaming service to have to deal with talent who feel that they’ve lost out due to how some films have been released as a result of COVID-19; Warner Bros. had some issues when they decided to release their entire 2021 catalog on HBO Max day and date with theaters.

The lawsuit may have been settled now, but it was a big talking point for the entertainment industry and a lot of figureheads had a lot to say about it.

What about the granddaddy of streaming services, Netflix? Its CEO, Ted Sarandos, weighed in, saying:

"I watch these things as a spectator—I would have said this or said that. I’m fortunate that we have not been in those shoes. Talent has to be respected and compensated."

While Sarandos didn’t say anything too spicy, it seemed he supported Scarlett Johansson’s efforts to ensure she’s fairly compensated.

Earlier this month, SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), publicly made a statement in support of Johansson. The group, who supports efforts of its writers to be fairly compensated, consists of writers who are also seeking payment for royalty payments of Star Wars related work prior to Disney purchasing LucasFilm.

In their statement, the SFWA criticized Disney for “unethical contractual maneuvers to avoid payment” and likens what the company is doing in the Scarlett Johansson case and what has happened to its writers.

Hollywood’s landscape is quite different now than it was even just a few years ago. Netflix and Hulu were the main streaming services. In 2021, studios have their own streaming services where they’ve been able to keep audiences home during a global pandemic.

Hopefully, now that Disney and Scarlett Johansson have come to an amicable agreement, all parties feel as if there were treated fairly and that all talent will be treated fairly moving forward.

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Black Widow is available to watch on Disney+ Premier Access now.