It appears that Cruella De Vil is getting what she wants. No, not the puppies of 101 Dalmatians. Rather, a sequel to the May 2021 film has been signed by the film’s star and executive producer Emma Stone.
But with the sequel locked in, what does this mean for the rumored lawsuit that Stone was considering, similar to the one Black Widow’s Scarlett Johansson filed, due to the Disney+ and Premier Access same-day release that allegedly affected potential profits?
Are there new terms with Disney in order to avoid a similar situation in the future? Read on for the details below.
Cruella at a glance
Disney’s Cruella is a spinoff of the classic animated film 101 Dalmatians from 1961 (as well as the live action remake from 1996). In it, the origins of Cruella De Vil (Emma Stone) are explored, detailing the rise of the villainess from humble beginnings to the fashion diva that she would eventually be recognized as.
Per the official synopsis of Disney’s Cruella reads:
Estella is a young and clever rafter who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend Baroness von Hellman, she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.
Aside from starring in the titular role, Emma Stone served as executive producer, alongside Glenn Close (who also portrayed Cruella De Vil in the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians).
Released on May 26, 2021, Disney’s Cruella has a worldwide gross of $221 million from box office returns. The exact numbers for the Disney+ Premier Access profits have not been released though, and there have already been talks that the film was sufficiently profitable that a sequel had been put on the table.
Disney had recently adopted a hybrid theater + premium video on-demand (PVOD) release model. This was generally done as a way to compensate for the challenges that the global COVID-19 pandemic led to. However, it remains a controversial choice, particularly with regards to the profits from bonuses and backend pay that actors and production teams receive based on theatrical box office returns.
Cruella was one of the first productions to have this hybrid release applied under the Disney umbrella. Recently, this was also applied to Black Widow and Jungle Cruise. It should be noted that Disney is not the only company that has sporadically adopted this release model. Warner Bros. Pictures has also done a similar approach with films such as Mortal Kombat and Godzilla vs. Kong.
Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, in particular, had become a point of discussion due to star and executive producer, Scarlett Johansson, deciding to file a lawsuit against Disney. The actress and her legal team alleges that Disney committed a violation of the terms of the film by deciding to release Black Widow in theaters and on the Disney+ service through the Premium Access service. Moreover, the allegation points to this leading to a loss of potential revenue from the theatrical performance.
Disney has since responded and disputed Johansson’s claim. The company has issued statements stating Johansson has received sufficient compensation based on the hybrid release. As stated by a Disney spokesperson:
There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.
The legal issue between Johansson and Disney is ongoing. However, it did spark conversation that Emma Stone might follow suit with the previously released Cruella. Industry insiders, such as former Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni, shared rumors that Emma Stone was "weighing her options".
However, a news report by Deadline Hollywood has confirmed that Emma Stone has finalized and closed a deal with Disney for a Cruella sequel.
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner Emma Stone has closed a deal to star in the sequel to 'Cruella' https://t.co/k1KR8K5rl3
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) August 13, 2021
As stated by Patrick Whitesell, Executive Chairman of Endeavor of WME, the agency who represents Emma Stone:
While the media landscape has been disrupted in a meaningful way for all distributors, their creative partners cannot be left on the sidelines to carry a disproportionate amount of the downside without the potential for upside. This agreement demonstrates that there can be an equitable path forward that protects artists and aligns studios' interests with talent. We are proud to work alongside Emma and Disney, and appreciate the studio's willingness to recognize her contributions as a creative partner. We are hopeful that this will open the door for more members of the creative community to participate in the success of new platforms.
Although the specifics of the Cruella sequel deal with Emma Stone are unclear, it is reportedly constructed to be mutually beneficial and designed to provide sufficient compensation should it be released once again as the more dynamic hybrid model. In light of the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic may continue to be a concern (as new Delta and Lambda variants have surfaced), this would be a prudent choice to make on the part of Disney moving forward.
Given that Stone has inked the deal for the sequel, the likelihood that the star will push through in filing a similar suit as Scarlett Johansson against Disney for breach of contract of the first film is extremely low.
As far as the Cruella sequel details, it was reported that the film will follow up with the events of the first. More connections that lead to the familiar events established in the 101 Dalmatians series would be included. It is expected that director Craig Gillespie and writer Tony McNamara will return, alongside the main cast of Cruella reprising their roles for the upcoming sequel.
Disney’s Cruella will be available free to subscribers of the Disney+ streaming service starting August 27, 2021.