Disney ‘should be ashamed’ of statement against Scarlett Johansson, says SAG president

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The president of the Screen Actor’s Guild criticized Disney on Friday for “bullying” Marvel actress Scarlett Johansson in a public statement it made last week regarding the “Black Widow” star’s lawsuit against the company.

Gabrielle Carteris said Disney should be “ashamed” of its “gender-shaming” tactics, suggesting the actor had an “insensitive disregard” for the dangers of Covid-19 to cinema audiences.

“Actors should be compensated for their work under their contracts,” she said in a statement. “Scarlett Johansson shines a glowing spotlight on the inappropriate shifts in compensation that companies try to evade talent as distribution models change.”

Carteris, whose organization represents about 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists and media performers, said no one in any area should be the victim of surprising cuts in expected compensation.

She said SAG is very concerned about the “gender tone” of Disney’s response.

“Women are not ‘insensitive’ when they stand up and fight for a fair wage – they are leaders and champions of economic justice,” she said. “Women have been victims of pay inequality for decades, and they have become even more victims of comments like those in Disney’s press releases. These kinds of attacks have no place in our society and SAG-AFTRA will continue to defend our members against all forms of prejudice.”

Johansson filed a lawsuit against the company late last week, alleging that Disney breached its contract when it released “Black Widow” on its streaming service Disney+ at the same time it debuted in theaters.

Like many Marvel veterans, including Robert Downey Jr., Johansson negotiated to get a percentage of the receipts on her paycheck. This is becoming more and more common in Marvel Cinematic Universe movies due to their theatrical track record.

The film’s streaming release came at the cost of box-office profits, although Disney reported that “Black Widow” scored $60 million in sales on Disney+ during its opening weekend. Globally, the film has sold just under $350 million in cinema tickets, one of the lowest grosses of any Marvel film to date.

In her lawsuit, Johansson alleges that the shift to offering “Black Widow” on Disney+, while done primarily for public safety, cost her a $50 million payout.

“Disney and other content companies are doing very well and can certainly meet their obligations to reimburse the artists whose art and artistry are responsible for the company’s profits,” SAG’s Carteris said Friday.

Disney responded to Johansson’s lawsuit last week, saying it “had no merit whatsoever” and “fully fulfilled” its contract. The company also revealed that the star had paid $20 million and could see a discount on sales on Disney+. It is not common for companies to share information about rewards.

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