Scarlett Johansson accused Disney of casting a web of deceit when it allegedly breached her Black Widow contract by simultaneously releasing the movie in theaters and on Disney+ last month, but the Mouse House really put her in full assassin mode Friday when it filed a motion on Los Angeles Superior Court to have their battle moved to confidential arbitration—and on the east coast, no less.
“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,” ScarJo’s lawyer, John Berlinski, said in a statement. “Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?”
As Deadline reports, Berlinski thinks the answer is obvious: “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 cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions. Yet that is exactly what happened—and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it.”
Disney insists that its agreement with Periwinkle Entertainment, which represents Johansson, requires the parties to handle all contract disputes in secret arbitration.
“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 states.
The company went on to dismiss Johansson’s suit as a headline-seeking maneuver. “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.”
Moreover, Disney says the fact that the first-ever female-led Avengers movie (Captain Marvel isn’t really an Avengers movie) was never given a chance to prove its box office prowess because it was torn between theaters and couches might be a shame, but that it never promised Johansson a theatrical release.
“The contract does not mandate theatrical distribution—let alone require that any such distribution be exclusive,” Disney snapped back in its filing.
Meanwhile, Johansson’s fellow Avenger, Elizabeth Olsen—who plays Scarlet Witch on WandaVision and throughout the MCU—has her back in this fight.
“I think she’s so tough and literally when I read that I was like, ‘Good for you Scarlett,’” Olsen tells Vanity Fair.
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