Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo has spoken out about Disney’s handling of Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit over Black Widow‘s simultaneous theatrical and streaming release.
In the midst of the pandemic, when movie theaters had not long reopened and many moviegoers were still reluctant to return to theaters, Disney was one of many studios experimenting with releasing movies directly to streaming platforms. This meant that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow – the first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home – hit Disney Plus the same day it was released in theaters.
The film was only available to stream via Premier Access – an additional one-time fee, paid on top of subscription costs, in order to access a specific film. In her lawsuit, Scarlett Johansson alleged that this was a breach of her contract, which guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. The actress said that Disney’s decision to move to a simultaneous streaming release had harmed her expected backend salary. The dispute was ultimately resolved when both parties reached a settlement.
Joe Russo, alongside his brother Anthony, directed the last two Captain America movies and the two-part Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. While promoting his and his brother’s new Netflix film, The Gray Man, in an interview with Den of Geek, Russo spoke about Disney’s initially hostile response to Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit. Russo said:
“We’re certainly concerned with the trend in the market that’s moving away from artists… There’s been a lot of value in tech companies getting involved in making content, but there’s also some downsides to that. And those downsides include tech companies like Netflix and Apple and Amazon having much deeper pockets than studios do, and they can pay more and that’s starting to scare the studios.
“So the studios are having a conservative reaction, and they’re trying to downplay their need for stars. They’re trying to force IP to be their star, and in accordance with that they’re also then trying to underpay and diminish the need for stars on their projects.”
It sounds like, from Russo’s perspective at least, Disney’s response to Johansson’s lawsuit was part of a wider issue with current changes in the film industry. The director did go on to emphasize:
“That was really not an appropriate way for [Disney] to handle that situation. It was disturbing to us as artists. Scarlett is a good friend of ours, and we were disheartened by how it was handled. We’re glad it’s resolved.”
Joe Russo declined to comment on whether he had been in negotations to return to Marvel Studios at the time of Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit, though the Russo brothers have had plenty of other projects to keep them occupied since the release of Avengers: Endgame. As well as their new Netflix project, they have been running their own production company, AGBO, which was involved with the recent indie hit Everything Everywhere All at Once.
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Source: Den of Geek