Weeks after Johansson claimed that Disney breached her contract and shortchanged her salary to boost its own streaming service by simultaneously dropping “Black Widow” in theaters and on Disney+, her co-stars have stayed relatively silent about the legal battle.
In a cover story for The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, Benedict Cumberbatch, who co-starred with Johansson in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” addressed the lawsuit, which he described as “a bit of a mess.”
“It’s sad what’s going on between the lawyers,” Cumberbatch said. “Just the verbiage and the accusations of, ‘Put it in a global pandemic context.’ The whole thing’s just a bit of a mess. We’re trying to understand what the revenue streams should be for artists that contribute to the billion-dollar business that is Disney. And it has to be contractualized.”
Johansson claimed in her lawsuit that her original contract promised an exclusive theatrical release for “Black Widow,” and that her salary was largely dependent on the film’s box office performance. In response, Disney said there was “no merit” to Johansson’s claims and revealed she had already made $20 million for “Black Widow.”
Disney’s legal team argued that Johansson’s suit showed a “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic” ― a statement that many believed was unduly harsh, and that multiple Hollywood women’s advocacy organizations labeled as a “gendered character attack” against the actor.
In the Hollywood Reporter story, reflecting on the historic nature of Johansson’s lawsuit, Cumberbatch asked: “How does an artist’s normal compensation with box office bonuses, how does it work?”
“It’s a new paradigm, and it’s a very complex one. No one saw this coming, and no one should use hindsight to say, ‘Well, it should have been done.’ That was the first of these films that was going to get a cinematic release during the pandemic and got stalled and stalled and stalled,” he said. “It’s very new territory.”
Elizabeth Olsen, another of Johansson’s “Avengers” co-stars, was decidedly more supportive of the actor, whom she praised for being “tough” amid the controversy.
“I think she’s so tough and literally when I read that I was like, ‘Good for you Scarlett,’” Olsen said during a Vanity Fair interview last month. “When it comes to actors and their earnings, I mean, that’s just, that’s just all contracts. So it’s either in the contract or it’s not.”
“Guardians of the Galaxy” star Dave Bautista is the only other actor in the Marvel orbit to address the matter, tweeting in response to a news story about the lawsuit: “Told em they should’ve made a #Drax movie but noooooo!”