AceShowbiz - Scarlett Johansson's lawyer has accused Disney chiefs of misogyny and misconduct after studio attorneys asked for the "Black Widow" star's lawsuit over the film's profits to be settled privately.
Johansson is battling bosses at Disney - who own Marvel - over their decision to release "Black Widow" to the streaming service Disney+ at the same time as its theatrical release, claiming the move violated the terms of their contract and significantly reduced her earning potential from the blockbuster.
The new mum filed her suit on 29 July (21) and the following day, lawyers for the media giant slammed the legal action, accusing Scarlett of showing "callous disregard" for the COVID-19 pandemic, and insisting their decision to release the movie on the streaming service offered a safer viewing option for film fans.
Now, legal representatives for Disney want to settle the matter behind closed doors, and filed a last-minute request on Friday (20Aug21) in LA Superior Court, demanding a private hearing on the matter in New York on 15 October (21).
But Scarlett's lawyer John Berlinski has shot down the request, telling Deadline, "After initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson, Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration."
"Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public? Because it knows that Marvel's promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release 'like its other films' had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn't cannibalise box office receipts in order to boost Disney Plus subscriptions. Yet that is exactly what happened - and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it."
Representatives for the media conglomerate insist the parties' original contract, which appears to have been negotiated by entertainment officials at a company called Periwinkle, acting for Scarlett, calls for arbitration in the event of such disputes.
"Periwinkle agreed that all claims 'arising out of, in connection with, or relating to' Scarlett Johansson's acting services for Black Widow would be submitted to confidential, binding arbitration in New York...," the motion reads.
"In a futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing), Periwinkle excluded Marvel as a party to this lawsuit--substituting instead its parent company Disney under contract-interference theories. But longstanding principles do not permit such gamesmanship."
After Disney bosses previously revealed the star was paid $20 million (£14.7 million) upfront for "Black Widow", they have also now lashed out at Johansson's claim she was assured "a release that is exclusive to movie theatres."
"Although Marvel and Disney share Periwinkle's frustration with the challenges associated with releasing films during an ever-shifting public-health crisis," they write, "there is nothing in the Agreement requiring that a 'wide theatrical release' also be an 'exclusive' theatrical release."
They insist they have satisfied the theatrical release aspect of the contract because "Black Widow" was released on "no less than 1500 screens" and allege Johansson was made aware of the possible hybrid release plan in the spring (21).
They also claim they will provide their leading lady with "additional" payment, above and beyond the sum they are obligated to pay her.
"Marvel has assured Johansson that she will be credited with 100% of the Premier Access and PEHV receipts for purposes of the box-office thresholds used to calculate any additional compensation - even though Marvel has no obligation under the Agreement to do so," the Friday motion continues.
"The release of Black Widow on Disney Plus with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date."
According to Deadline, Scarlett's original contract does not include a share of the streaming revenue from "Black Widow".