The way Disney handled the release of Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Scarlett Johansson’s pay for the film sent a stark message to many creatives in Hollywood.
After the film was delayed due to the COVID pandemic, Disney decided to release the film last year theatrically and on Disney+ the same day.
Johansson filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that her pay, which was tied to box office gross, was negatively impacted by the simultaneous streaming release.
In a statement at the time, Disney said, “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
They later settled the matter out of court.
In a new interview with Den of Geek, “Avengers: Endgame” directors Joe and Anthony Russo spoke about the dispute between Disney and Johansson, calling out the company for its treatment of artists.
“We’re certainly concerned with the trend in the market that’s moving away from artists,” Joe said. “There’s been a lot of value in tech companies getting involved in making content, but there’s also some downsides to that. And those downsides include tech companies like Netflix and Apple and Amazon having much deeper pockets than studios do, and they can pay more and that’s starting to scare the studios.
“So the studios are having a conservative reaction, and they’re trying to downplay their need for stars. They’re trying to force IP to be their star, and in accordance with that they’re also then trying to underpay and diminish the need for stars on their projects.”
Regarding Johansson specifically, Joe added, “That was really not an appropriate way for them to handle that situation. It was disturbing to us as artists. Scarlett is a good friend of ours, and we were disheartened by how it was handled. We’re glad it’s resolved.”
For their part, the Russos are currently focused more on producing their own original films through their production company AGBO, including helping get the recent indie hit “Everything Everywhere All At Once” made.
“Our autonomy is at a historic scale,” Joe explained. “We have our own company, it’s really well funded, and we can help movies like ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ get across the finish line.”
He added, “I think we will start trending back towards original IP. I think it’s a great opportunity… I think that original IP will start to emerge in this market as corporations become more pedantic and factory-like with the execution of their current IP. I just think people are going to crave new ideas.”