Last month, Scarlett Johansson made a bold move: She sued Disney. The company, which owns the MCU — and therefore all the films she made as Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow — had broken their contract, her lawsuit charged, by putting her character’s solo outing on Disney+, as well as in theaters. Disney execs did not take it well, and although they’re hoping to settle things behind closed doors, they did accuse their longtime employee of “gamesmanship.”
As per Deadline, attorney Daniel Petrocelli, an attorney for the company, made a late-night filing on Friday claiming his clients hadn’t broken their contract with the star. Black Widow was guaranteed a “wide theatrical” release. That’s what it got. And, Petrocelli argued, nowhere in the contract did it say the film’s release had to be exclusively theatrical. It also, he said, made a lot of money, especially considering it was released in the middle of a pandemic.
However, rather than duke it out in courts, Petrocelli wanted to force it into arbitration, i.e., to find another way to settle the lawsuit, preferably quietly. Disney also agreed to add streaming receipts to the box office total, thus increasing Johansson’s backend, despite that not being in the original contract.
Petrocelli did have some harsh words for Johansson and her legal team. In the filing, he called her out for suing Disney, not just Marvel, which he called a “futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing),” as well as “gamesmanship.”
John Berlinski, an attorney for Johansson, responded to the filing:
“After initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson, Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration. Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public? Because it knows that Marvel’s promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release ‘like its other films’ had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn’t cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions. Yet that is exactly what happened – and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it.”