After premiering last June 29, 2021, Black Widow has gone on to make a total of $372.3 million in the global box office and could potentially make more as the film is still being shown in theaters in some parts of the world. Not to mention, Black Widow remains exclusive to Disney+ Premier until October 6, 2021. This suggests that the reported figures of Black Widow could be much higher.
With so much money involved in the film, you can't exactly blame the Black Widow star, Scarlett Johansson. In the end, all she wanted was her fair piece of the pie. Disney reportedly pushed through with Black Widow's hybrid release against Johansson's wishes, which Johansson's team claims affected her earnings.
Now, reports are saying that Johansson's team tried to negotiate with Disney so that Johansson would receive $100 million for Black Widow after its release plans changed.
How much was Johansson paid for Black Widow?
According to The Wall Street Journal's report, the legal team behind the former MCU superstar asked Disney for $100 million. The eight-figure payday was reportedly based on how much Johansson "would receive in a hypothetical global box-office take of $1.2 billion." The team claims that they based the sum on Marvel's previous theatrical releases before COVID-19 happened.
Of course, the global pandemic changed things. Because moviegoers were concerned about their health (in addition to the government-mandated lockdowns), films that experts estimated would pull in billions didn't fare that well. Case in point, no film in 2021 grossed $1 billion despite the eased restrictions. In comparison, at least 9 films pulled in a global take of at least $1 billion back in 2019.
Returning to the same report, the legal team representing the world's highest-paid actress came to Disney using the $100 million as a "starting bid" to try and find a middle ground after Disney reportedly revealed that it would release Black Widow as a Premier Access on Disney Plus on the same day as it released in theaters.
It doesn't take an expert to know that these talks never gained any traction. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here.
Johansson reportedly earned a starting salary of $20 million for her first and only solo outing in the MCU, which, on top of other compensation, resulted in Johansson earning more as a result of Black Widow's hybrid release, as per Disney back in July.
Who is to blame for the fallout between Johansson and Disney?
The more details emerge about Johansson's lawsuit against Disney, the more obvious it becomes that it all boils down to Disney's inaction. For example, you don't exactly hear anyone from The Suicide Squad complaining about getting paid their dues despite the film's lackluster box office figures. This suggests that Warner Bros. made sure that the actors and actresses starring in their films would receive proper compensation.
With that said, Johansson's legal team previously decried Disney's response to the lawsuit. John Berlinski, in particular, claimed that Disney was attempting to "hide its misconduct" and was afraid of "public litigation". Berlinski's statement came after the House of Mouse filed to move the arbitration to New York.
An email included in the lawsuit that the recent WSJ report highlighted showed that Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi told Johansson's legal team that discussions were necessary "as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses."
The same WSJ report notes that the biggest problem with the contract negotiation was that it wasn't clear who should lead it. At the time, Disney CEO Bob Chapek had his hands full with pandemic-related concerns. Meanwhile, Bob Iger and Alan Horn chose to step away from the dispute. Both Horn and Iger are expected to step down from their positions later this year.
Overall, it appears that Disney could have avoided this controversial lawsuit. All it needed to do was to act sooner. Now, Disney will have to deal with the resulting fallout. Unfortunately, this has affected the potential return of Joe Russo and Anthony Russo. The directors of Avengers: Endgame were reportedly negotiating with Marvel about a new film when news of Johansson's lawsuit broke out. The talks have reportedly since stopped. It's believed that the brothers are now uncertain "how their next movie would be distributed and how they would be paid."
On the flip side, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have benefitted from this lawsuit. Because Disney decided to release the third film of Phase Four of the MCU in theaters only, the first original MCU film has become both a critical and commercial success.