Jennifer Lawrence says Scarlett Johansson’s recent battle with Disney surrounding the release of Black Widow was brave. The Natasha Romanoff actor entered into a lawsuit with the monolithic production company over a breach of contract (she believed that the decision to release the movie onto the streaming site Disney+ damaged the film’s box office potential). Johansson alleged that the contract she had signed promised an exclusive theatrical release for the film. The decision to simultaneously release onto streaming deprived her of box office performance bonuses, the lawsuit claimed. The Johansson-Disney suit was settled in September, with reports suggesting that Disney will compensate the actor around $40 million.
Black Widow is the first, long-awaited solo adventure for the original Avenger after years of calls. Florence Pugh starred as Yelena Belova, Romanoff’s newly reunited sister, who has to go on the run with Johansson’s superhero to evade the hunt of the pairs of ex-KGB trainers and operatives. Black Widow accrued $370 million at the worldwide box office, placing it in the top ten highest-grossing movies of 2021 so far. However, the availability of the film through Disney+ reportedly cost the Black Widow actor $50 million in box-office rewards as none of the $30 premier access fee profit was included in her contract.
Following the resolution of the dispute, Jennifer Lawrence has voiced her support for Johansson in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, calling her actions “brave” and Disney’s as “unfair.” The Academy Award-winning actor herself has worked with Disney in the past through her role as Raven in the prequel X-Men films, with the latest entry, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, released in 2019. Lawrence is the latest in a long line of Hollywood actors who have publicly backed Johansson, joining the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis and Elizabeth Olsen.
I thought that was extremely brave. If two parties understand how a movie is going to be released, and then it turns out that one of the parties did not agree to that, that’s unfair. She was also crowning! She was giving birth.
Over the last eighteen months, various films have had a dual theatrical and premier streaming release, including Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Cruella. However, notably, not Black Widow’s MCU counterparts Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, the former out-grossed Black Widow while Eternal has already surpassed the $300 million mark after only being released for two weeks. Although Black Widow was released during a seemingly more dangerous time of the Covid-19 pandemic, Johansson’s film was the only one to feature a cinematically established superhero within the MCU. The spreading of its release across platforms could justifiably be scrutinized by Johansson as it was always destined to make a lot of money.
The success of Johansson’s suit, along with the public support from fellow Hollywood stars like Lawrence, could be the catalyst of a slight power shift between production companies and (mainly female) actors. If Johansson can challenge the most powerful conglomerate in cinema and win, this can give hope to the many female actors fighting to be paid the same amount as their male counterparts. Johansson herself believes that the Black Widow lawsuit has had a positive impact on the industry. The crack in Disney’s compensation armor could be torn into an actual opening for fairer, more open compensation within the current Hollywood system. Do not be surprised if an increasing number of actors further come out to support Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit and perhaps even take out cases of their own.