Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, is suing The Walt Disney Company for alleged breach of contract. But she may only be the first. According to some outlets, Cruella star Emma Stone and Jungle Cruise co-star Emily Blunt may also pursue legal action against the House of Mouse.
What are the odds that the two female leads of their own Disney projects join Johansson in suing Disney? What does this mean for the future of theatrical and streaming releases of films? Read on for the rundown.
Former editor at the Hollywood Reporter, industry insider, and attorney Matthew Belloni discussed in his "What I’m Hearing" invite-only newsletter, how Emma Stone is considering filing a lawsuit similar to Johansson’s. Emma Stone’s Cruella had a similar situation as Black Widow earlier in the year, with the film being released in theaters and as part of Disney+ Premiere Access for $29.99.
Stone’s Cruella did substantially well for a film released during the global pandemic. However, like Johansson, the actress would have received a more favorable profit had the theatrical release performed better. Again, a similar scenario of pitting the hybrid release for both theaters and the Disney+ platform could be argued as the reason for a lower box office return, while not seeing backend profits from the Premiere Access inclusion.
As Belloni wrote in his newsletter, in reference to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and how the situation has been brewing:
There is an unusually high amount of cheering going on today in the talent community, which indicates these issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Disney is notoriously difficult to deal with, and has become even more so under Chapek.
Agents and lawyers have been waiting a long time for someone of Johansson’s stature to take a stand publicly. Emma Stone, star of Cruella, is said to be weighing her options, and Emily Blunt, who raised a similar gripe over the much more favorable windowing strategy on Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II, is likely watching the Jungle Cruise numbers closely this weekend. Writers, directors, stars, and others have been reaching out to their reps, asking how they can help. The floodgates might be opening.
Emily Blunt is the newest name to be included in a potential deluge of lawsuits concerning studios' decisions to release their films as a hybrid of both theater and digital distribution. But surprisingly, should Blunt choose to do so, this would be the second time she has been in a similar situation.
Blunt also raised a similar concern with Paramount Pictures and the film A Quiet Place Part II. After premiering March 8, 2020, the film had multiple delayed release schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Later, the company would decide on a brief theatrical release window. It was then quickly distributed online on Paramount Plus, only 45 days after its May 28, 2021 theatrical release.
Belloni also mentioned Blunt as one of the potential stars that may follow Johansson’s suit. Belloni has predicted how the Disney handling of big-name talent and their projects may have repercussions.
Here we go. Disney didn’t believe me when I told them how pissed their summer movie stars really are. https://t.co/e4xOJ9tIIL
— Matthew Belloni (@MattBelloni) July 29, 2021
Although Jungle Cruise has only kist been released and is yet to get its full box office weekend breakdown, there is no confirmation yet on how well the film’s performance would ultimately result. Insiders project the film to make a domestic weekend sale of around $30 million.
As a side note, this is bad news for fans who were actively lobbying for Emily Blunt and husband John Krasinski to play Sue Storm and Reed Richards for the planned Fantastic Four film. Should Blunt choose to sue Disney, it is very unlikely she or her spouse will be considered for future roles on any Disney property.
It has begun
Emma Stone and Emily Blunt are not the only ones who are considering joining the legal battle versus studios. It isn’t just against Disney either. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gerard Butler is suing Millenium Media for missing $10 million in profits for Olympus Has Fallen:
Gerard Butler alleges he is owed at least $10 million from the success of 'Olympus Has Fallen' https://t.co/ynmETKoiuf
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) August 1, 2021
The lawsuit Scarlett Johansson has issued against Disney may simply be the first in an avalanche of similar suits. Belloni also noted how Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is "angry and ashamed" over Johansson’s lawsuit. On the other hand, Disney has pushed back,
The legal team of Johansson has stated that this is not about the money, per se. It is more about the principle behind honoring the terms of agreements and contracts that their client signed with The Walt Disney Company.
As mentioned before, the after-effects of Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney will have many long-term ramifications. Certainly, as more high profile personalities like Johansson, Stone, and Blunt speak out, more attention will be given to the situation and whether or not such claims from both sides have merit.
How it will affect ongoing and future projects, big or small, may influence studio decisions and the parameters of their contracts, will be interesting to see as it unfolds.
Jungle Cruise stars Emily Blunt, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, and Jack Whitehall. It released in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere access for $29.99 on July 30, 2021. The film becomes free to all Disney+ subscribers on October 30, 2021.