The President of SAG-AFTRA is backing Scarlett in her lawsuit (Picture: Disney)
Disney has been slammed by the president of the Screen Actors’ Guild after it emerged Scarlett Johansson was suing the studio following the release of Black Widow.
Johansson, who plays the superhero also known as Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alleges Disney was in breach of her contract by allowing for a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release of Black Widow, which she claims damaged her earning potential as a large part of her salary is based on the film’s box office performance, which dropped 67% after the film’s opening weekend.
Following her lawsuit, Disney issued a statement, saying there was ‘no merit whatsoever’ to it and that the company had ‘fully complied’ with her contract.
The company also labelled the action ‘sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic’, which prompted Johansson’s agent Bryan Lourd to hit back at Disney’s response to the actress’s lawsuit, branding it a ‘direct attack’ on her character.
Now SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris has also hit out at Disney, saying the studio should be ‘ashamed’ of how it handled the lawsuit.
In a statement, she said: ‘Disney should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to tired tactics of gender-shaming and bullying.
‘Actors must be compensated for their work according to their contracts. Scarlett Johansson is shining a white-hot spotlight on the improper shifts in compensation that companies are attempting to slip by talent as distribution models change. Nobody in any field of work should fall victim to surprise reductions in expected compensation. It is unreasonable and unjust.
‘Disney and other content companies are doing very well and can certainly live up to their obligations to compensate the performers whose art and artistry are responsible for the corporation’s profits.’
She added: ‘Additionally, we are deeply concerned by the gendered tone of Disney’s criticism of Ms. Johansson. Women are not ‘callous’ when they stand up and fight for fair pay – they are leaders and champions for economic justice.
‘Women have been victimized by pay inequity for decades, and they have been further victimized by comments like those in Disney’s press statements. These sorts of attacks have no place in our society and SAG-AFTRA will continue to defend our members from all forms of bias. [sic]’
Since Johansson’s lawsuit and Disney’s response, women’s groups including Time’s Up have since come forward to accuse Disney of a ‘gendered attack’ on Johansson, asserting that they ‘stand firmly against Disney’s recent statement which attempts to characterise Johansson as insensitive or selfish for defending her contractual business rights’.
A spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company had said in regards to the suit: ‘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.’
Of the response, Johansson’s agent added: ‘The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.’
Johansson first appeared as Romanoff in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and went on to star in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Solider, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
Her character was killed in Endgame, with Black Widow – on which she was also an executive producer – acting as a prequel.