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Thread: Is anyone going to stick up for ScarJo?

  1. #16
    fgg is offline
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    Apr 2008


    Scarlett Johansson v Disney: Hollywood’s next labor battle

    Last Thursday, Scarlett Johansson dropped a bombshell lawsuit on Disney, alleging breach of contract. The suit claims that Johansson had a theatrical-exclusive guarantee in her contract for Black Widow—which would not be unusual for an actor of her stature—and that by putting Black Widow on Disney+ day-and-date with the theatrical release, Disney not only violated her contract, but they reduced her overall compensation because her deal was structured to include back-end profit participation (probably in the form of benchmark bonuses, again, another standard for top-tier talent), as putting the movie on streaming cuts into ticket sales. Disney then fired back with an uncharacteristically classless response that amounts to: sit down and shut up, you already got paid $20 million, and won’t you think of all the suffering in this pandemic, you ungrateful bitch. Johansson’s agent, Bryan Lourd, father of Billie and co-chair of uber-powerful CAA, responded in defense of his client, pointing out that Disney is essentially self-dealing with Disney+, a revenue stream that is not currently factored into talent contracts. There is a LOT going on here, let’s break it down.

    First, I don’t give a sh-t if you don’t like Scarlett Johansson, or Black Widow, or Marvel movies in general. This is a MUCH bigger issue than any one person, or movie, or studio. This is, at heart, a labor issue. Johansson happens to have the time and money to fight the first major battle, but make no mistake, this fight was ALWAYS coming. A lawsuit like this was probably inevitable, and we will likely see more suits over the next few years (indeed, Emma Stone is reportedly considering it, and John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and other stakeholders in A Quiet Place Part II are dealing with Paramount over revenue potentially lost by an early move to streaming on Paramount+). I understand the frustration of hearing stories about millionaires going after more millions in court, and there is a valid conversation to be had about wealth disparity and actor salaries, but this is not where we have that conversation. This. Is. A. Labor. Issue. Like her or not, Scarlett Johansson is the labor, and Disney is the management.

    Next, how valid is Johansson’s claim? Obviously, none of us have read her contract, but I find it hard to believe her lawyers would file suit at all if they didn’t think they had something to go on. Further, the complaint included emails with Marvel’s chief counsel from March 2019, long before COVID was even a thing, which indicates an understanding that Johansson’s contract was for a theatrical release, and that “should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.” This sounds like there was some discussion of Black Widow going to streaming even before there were pandemic-led issues. Further, when a simultaneous streaming release solidified, Johansson’s team attempted to renegotiate her compensation but were “rebuffed”. Apparently, Disney just didn’t reply.

    I asked a transactional attorney who works for a large production company and has written contracts for actors comparable to Scarlett Johansson for her opinion on this matter, and she said that, acknowledging she has no affiliation with Disney, Marvel, or Johansson, and that she has not seen the contract in question, this is the part of the case with the strongest grounding. The 2019 email indicates an understanding that Johansson’s compensation was structured on the assumption of exclusive box office receipts, and Marvel knew if the release plan changed, they would need to renegotiate those terms. The problem is, the contract is with Marvel, not Disney itself. The question then becomes, what does Disney owe its subsidiary? This is murkier water simply because no one has yet determined how these streaming revenues benefit talent, and at what point, legally, a distributor moving a film to its own streaming platform becomes self-dealing. This is a big legal question that will have much broader implications than just Johansson’s individual suit. And it is not unfamiliar ground for Disney, who has been using the cover provided by “we didn’t write that contract” to (allegedly) withhold royalties from authors of novels tying into Fox’s Alien franchise and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise. Disney’s stance seems to be, “we didn’t write that contract, therefore, we are not beholden to it”. Johansson’s lawsuit might determine that once and for all.

    Where the case is weaker is in claiming that Disney should have further delayed the release of Black Widow. The attorney I spoke to thinks this trends into force majeure territory and making an argument that they should have waited for a more robust market becomes a kind of guessing game where no one really knows what would happen. The suit claims Johansson was projected to make around $50 million from a traditional, in-good-times, theater-only release, but that is a projection. No one really knows what would have happened. I, for one, never thought Black Widow was a billion-dollar movie. It’s possible even under ideal circumstances, Johansson would have fallen short of the projected bonuses. The attorney is of the opinion Johansson is better off sticking to the Marvel email and the point that Disney is self-dealing and forced a breach of her contract. However, she also thinks the initial complaint could be intentionally “overwritten” simply to give the attorneys plenty of room to maneuver.

    As for Disney’s asinine response, I was shocked by it because it’s so incendiary and, yes, intentionally misogynistic. The whole point of Disney’s statement is to turn people against Johansson because damn, isn’t she rich enough? And isn’t this pandemic terrible, and aren’t you all suffering, and isn’t she The Worst for trying to get more millions at a time like this? Never mind that Disney’s concern for the suffering of the masses In These Trying Times has not even once extended to their own employees, who they laid off by the tens of thousands last year, and suspended pay for even more, and forced the remaining theme park employees back into precarious contact with the public. What was that again about the “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects” of the pandemic? Apropos of nothing, Zenia Mucha, Disney’s long-time PR chief, is on her way out the door. She has a lot to do with Disney’s image as a drama-free company, and though she has a reputation for ruthless image maintenance, it’s hard to see this tactless statement coming from her people. One wonders if this kind of turbulence might become more common now that Bob Iger and his top lieutenants, like Mucha, are gone/leaving.

    This is all just so AVOIDABLE. Warner Brothers already showed the way to handle these hybrid streaming releases with pre-streaming contracts. They paid out over $10 million a piece to Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman 1984 to satisfy the kind of back-end profit-sharing Johansson is targeting in her suit. After deciding to dump their whole 2021 slate onto HBO Max, they have paid hundreds of millions more to satisfy their creative partners with these types of deals. All Disney had to do was lob some money at Johansson and there is no problem, no public lawsuit, no potential falling out with a star who has not only been part of their most successful franchise, but is set to produce more movies for them in the future. There was no need to burn this bridge! Perhaps they think the “we didn’t write it, it’s not OUR contract” is solid enough to withstand suit, but…it’s probably not. They’re the parent company, the buck stops with them. Further, Marvel is making these deals with the understanding that Disney, who distributes their films, will honor them. Rumor has it, Kevin Feige is Very Unhappy with this situation, as well he should be. Disney is jeopardizing HIS creative partnerships. Who’s going to want to work with Marvel if they think Disney can just undermine their contracts at any time?

    These back-end deals can be WILDLY lucrative—RDJ, for instance, made one fortune on his exorbitant salaries, and an entire second fortune from his back-end bonuses—but even day players get residuals, and those residuals depend on the long afterlife films have on secondary and tertiary outlets like rental/VOD and television syndication. With streaming, though, there is no afterlife. There is just the stream. Residuals are being GUTTED in the streaming era, and so far, nothing has come along to replace that loss of revenue. Sure, for someone like Johansson it’s just more millions on top of the millions she already has. But for gigging actors, those residuals can be the difference between making rent or not. Residuals are meant to keep actors afloat between jobs, and no one knows what the landscape looks like without them.

    The question of streaming and self-dealing is so much bigger than any one actor’s contract, and this will be an ugly fight, there is just SO much money at stake. The fight came first to the writers’ room and it has now arrived at the cast trailers. The next stop is the crew tent. EVERYONE is going to be fighting for their piece of a shrinking pie as streaming digs into the back-end payments that shored up compensation packages for decades. There are a lot of reasons to dislike Scarlett Johansson, but in the question of labor versus management, always side with labor. And if you are, for some unfathomable reason, on the side of management, I invite you to listen to some Woody Guthrie and fix your heart on the side of labor, because management is certainly never on your side.
    can't post pics because my computer's broken and i'm stupid

  2. #17
    Elite Member ChemicalHelena's Avatar
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    Feb 2007


    Maybe it shouldn't, but it surprises me that Disney wouldn't have the shit together with contracts.
    “Cigarettes and coffee: an alcoholic's best friend!”
    ~Gerard Way

  3. #18
    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    Apr 2006


    Disney is a greedy multi-billion corporation, it knows what it's doing, it's trying to screw people over and gambling that their lawyers will tie this up or prevail on their account, contracts be damned. Fuck Disney, because you know they'd do a million times worse if any actor breached a contract with them.
    czb, OrangeSlice, Novice and 6 others like this.

  4. #19
    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
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    I want to mention that part of the problem here seems to be also that Johansson had a direct contract with Marvel Studios. Marvel, in turn, is a subsidiary of Disney. It appears that Disney is claiming that they do not have to honor the terms of the contract that Johansson had with Marvel. I could be wrong, but I think that is one of their claims. But I would think that a parent company would be beholden to any contracts that its subsidiary made with a particular person or contractor/subcontractor.
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  5. #20
    fgg is offline
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    Apr 2008


    Emma Stone sticks with Disney

    When news of Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney broke, there was rapidly a rumor that Emma Stone, whose star-vehicle Cruella was also moved to a Premiere Access title on Disney+, would follow suit and join ScarJo in the suit. Well, no. That is not happening. In fact, the opposite is happening, as Stone is sticking with Disney for a Cruella sequel, presumably called Cruella 2: Fashion Bugaloo. It’s hard to tell how well anything is doing right now because all traditional markers of success are out the window since the box office has not recovered and we’re still mid-pandemic, but I have seen a TON of Cruella stuff on Tumblr, which means that the Youths, they are all in. And that’s the market Disney most wants, because Youths eventually turn into Olds who produce Youths of their own and they take those Youths to Disney parks and on Disney cruises and to see Disney movies and keep the nostalgia circle alive forever and ever, amen. So even with no way to really know how “successful” Cruella is, that it is getting a sequel suggests Disney is happy with some number on a ledger somehow.

    Of course, this is being presented in the trades as a win for Disney amidst ScarJo’s high-profile lawsuit. Deadline specifically calls this deal “a very good sign” for Disney as it deals with “some criticism” of its Premiere Access day-and-date release plan. While theater owners have been quick all season to blame increased streaming access on unstable box office results, let’s be clear that Scarlett Johansson is not “criticizing” Disney for their release plan, she is specifically suing because they aren’t compensating her fairly under a new release plan from which she, as a profit-participant, was excluded. Not quite the same thing. In semi-related news, Disney has apparently cancelled that Tower of Terror movie Johansson was set to produce and star in. I have no doubt that somewhere down the line, once the current dispute is resolved, Disney and Johansson will reteam on something else, but in the moment, you can’t be in business with Disney and also sue Disney, thus Emma Stone has chosen to remain in business with Disney.

    To that end, Deadline also notes that the Cruella 2 deal “mutually benefits both sides”. The moment I saw this notification on my phone, I wondered what Stone’s compensation looks like, because I assume she is getting something significant thrown her way to keep her from going the other way and siding with ScarJo. You would expect a raise for a sequel, of course, but I suspect Stone is getting a rather large raise, and probably most, if not all, of it is guaranteed money regardless of how the eventual release of Cruella 2 shakes out. If anything, Johansson’s suit may have empowered Stone’s lawyers to play hardball with Disney and insist on guaranteed compensation regardless of release, because they can always just join the suit and double Disney’s headache.

    After Warner Brothers elected to shove their entire 2021 slate onto streaming, they ended up paying hundreds of million of dollars to talent and creative partners, and reconfigured box office bonuses, to keep people from suing them for breach of contract. Disney has already attracted one such suit, but I bet we hear of more “mutually beneficial” deals with people who have been involved with their Premiere Access releases. Throwing someone another project with a bunch of cash attached is one way to shore up talent relations and doing it not as settlements but as salary means Disney can keep the exact details under wraps. We might not ever know how much Emma Stone really gets for Cruella 2, but it’s safe to assume a sickening amount. It’s “please don’t sue us” money, after all.
    can't post pics because my computer's broken and i'm stupid

  6. #21
    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Burning Down Your Windmill


    Good for her.

    Scarlett Johansson, Disney Settle Explosive ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit

    The settlement ends a back-and-forth PR battle pitting the CAA-repped star against the studio that was poised to have dramatic implications for all of Hollywood’s majors.

    SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 4:48PM

    “I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” stated Johansson. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

    Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman added: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”

    The explosive suit, filed by the actress in July in Los Angeles Superior Court, claimed that the studio sacrificed the film’s box office potential in order to grow its fledgling Disney+ streaming service. Disney countered that Johansson was paid $20 million for the film.

    The settlement brings to a close a back-and-forth PR battle that pitted the CAA-repped star against Disney and was poised to have dramatic implications for all of Hollywood’s major studios. Johansson’s cause received support in the industry, with talent and executives — including Jamie Lee Curtis, Marvel’s
    WandaVision star Elizabeth Olsen and mogul Jason Blum — speaking out on her behalf.

    At the time of the complaint, a Disney spokesperson said, in part, “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd shot back that Disney “shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.”

    In her complaint, Johansson said the Marvel tentpole had been guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release when she signed her deal. She alleged that her contract was breached when the film was simultaneously released on Disney+.

    As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on Hollywood over the past 18 months, Black Widow was one of many big-budget movies, also including Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 and Disney’s Cruella and Jungle Cruise, that bowed simultaneously on streaming and in theaters. But to date, Johansson is the only major movie star to sue.

    “Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?” the complaint asked. “On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johansson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

    Black Widow
    , which has earned $379 million at the worldwide box office to date, debuted at the same time in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30. But in what was viewed by rival studio executives as a major miscalculation, Disney boasted July 11 that Black Widow earned $60 million via Disney+ Premier Access, opening the door for a fierce clash. After all, Johansson had been considering litigation for several months, says a source familiar with the suit. Until the afternoon of July 28, she believed Disney would make an offer and that she wouldn’t have to file a suit. But Disney stayed in the mode of, “Let’s keep talking,” the source adds. Johansson was particularly incensed by the announcement, which pleased Wall Street but not the talent and representation community.

    According to the complaint, Disney’s move “not only increased the value of Disney+, but it also intentionally saved Marvel (and thereby itself) what Marvel itself referred to as ‘very large box office bonuses’ that Marvel otherwise would have been obligated to pay Ms. Johansson.”

    Johansson vs. Disney
    marked the latest iteration of a profit-participation dispute that is all too common in Hollywood, with actors fighting studios over their backend compensation or the definition of “net profit.” Very few of these battles percolate to the surface; they often come to a resolution before lawyers get involved, or the actor’s contract contains an arbitration provision and the whole process remains confidential. (A source familiar with Johansson’s suit says her contract does have an arbitration provision, but her lawyers were willing to test it.)

    “The exception is when there’s so much money involved or if there’s a level of acrimony that has reached a point of no return, and people are going to stand on principle,” attorney James Sammataro tells THR. “That statement by Disney confirmed the latter, but it still is a shocking statement to make — to paint someone as being insensitive and playing the whole, ‘You’re so out of touch’ card. You could probably make the same argument about Disney; ‘Yeah. You’ve been generating millions, if not billions, during the pandemic.’”

    In the wake of Johansson’s suit, more than a handful of other A-listers were said to be considering filing similar suits. (Jungle Cruise star Dwayne Johnson was not one of them, given that he has a different compensation structure than Johansson.) But that has not come to fruition yet. Cruella’s Emma Stone closed a deal two weeks after Johansson’s suit to star in a sequel of Disney’s live-action film, offering a sign that Disney was working to secure and mollify talent amid the charged atmosphere.

    While Disney has faced criticism for its handling of talent deals during the pandemic, WarnerMedia took a different approach by proactively doling out as much as $200 million to pay a long list of stars whose Warner Bros. films were simultaneously opening in theaters and on its HBO Max streaming service, including Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and Will Smith.

    Johansson is represented by Kasowitz partner John Berlinski, while Daniel Petrocelli has been repping Disney.
    Tati and Beeyotch like this.
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