And just like that, the tectonic lawsuit between Scarlett Johansson and Disney has settled, just two days before the two-month mark. ScarJo and Disney have brought an end to hostilities, having reached a settlement agreement yesterday. In a statement, ScarJo said:
“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. […] I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”
Alan Bergman, chair of Disney Studios, added:
“I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”
Oh, so I guess that Tower of Terror is uncancelled now that everything is good again? Not unlike Emma Stone’s deal for Cruella 2, I would like to know what the terms of Tower of Terror look like. Is there, perhaps, a sweetener in that pot? Something to, say, salve the wounds of Disney’s really quite ugly statements regarding Johansson during this whole affair?
Of course, none of the details of the settlement have been made public. It’s not in Disney’s best interest for anyone to know what they paid to make this go away—because they definitely paid. Johansson—and her lawyers—wouldn’t just wake up and decide to stop suing. But we probably won’t ever know what brought this to an end. Did Shang-Chi’s strong box office performance have something to do with it? Even released into a more precarious COVID situation than Black Widow was last July, it became the highest-grossing domestic film last week. That seems to go in favor of Johansson’s argument that streaming hurt Black Widow’s box office. (It doesn’t account for Disney’s implication that they’re cutting her into the Premiere Access revenue, though.) Or was the recent announcement of a merger between CAA and ICM a factor? CAA, already one of the most powerful talent agencies in the industry, just got that much bigger, and Bryan Lourd, head of CAA and Johansson’s representative who was staunchly and vocally supportive of her taking on Disney, is now that much more powerful.
The public didn’t turn on ScarJo as Disney’s initial statement against her attempted to do, and while no one else joined Johansson in suing, this lawsuit has been a spectator sport in the industry since the day it was filed. Johansson never really stood to lose anything, except the potential earnings she felt Disney denied her. Sure, that Tower of Terror movie was up in the air, but what, Disney just ISN’T going to be in business with one of the biggest stars in the world? There was never any question that this would settle, a trial would not benefit Disney, who would then be providing public benchmarks for other talent to use in negotiations with them.
By settling, they can keep the terms under wraps, and thus, no one will really know how much ScarJo got, what the price of day-and-date deals for top-tier talent really is. Of course, that does not benefit labor as a whole in the industry, but the existence of the settlement does show that there is an assumption talent should participate in streaming revenue the same way they do traditional box office. Not to mention that by bringing this to an end, Kevin Feige can start smoothing ruffled feathers at Marvel, beginning with his own. I wonder if that new deal with the Russo Brothers can be worked out after all?