AVENGERS: ENDGAME Co-Director Weighs In On Disney's Handling Of Scarlett Johansson's BLACK WIDOW Lawsuit

In 2021, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney over its release of Black Widow. Now, Avengers: Endgame Co-Director Joe Russo has given his opinion on what led to the lawsuit.

Scarlett Johansson made headlines in 2021 when she sued Disney over its release strategy for Black Widow. Natasha Romanoff's first standalone adventure — the first MCU movie to be released in 2021 — came out day-and-date in movie theaters and on Disney+'s Premier Access.

Johansson's lawsuit alleged a breach of contract on Disney's part, and claimed that the studio's release plan negatively impacted her expected backend salary (Black Widow made $379 million worldwide, and experienced a notorious 67% second-weekend drop at the box office). Matters escalated, with Disney calling Johansson's lawsuit a "callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Both parties ultimately reached a settlement in September of 2021. The actress said in a statement at the time: "I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. [...] 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."

Regardless of its conclusion, Johansson's lawsuit left a mark on the entertainment industry, and is still a topic of conversation to this day. Case in point, Joe Russo, one half of the Russo-Brothers directing duo, has now given his take on the situation. Speaking with Den of Geek to promote his and his brother's (Anthony Russo) new Netflix film, The Gray Man, the Infinity War and Endgame co-director discussed Johansson's lawsuit and Disney's response to it.

Joe Russo stated that streaming companies getting more power could be scaring studios: 

"We're certainly concerned with the trend in the market that’s moving away from artists. [...] There's been a lot of value in tech companies getting involved in making content, but there's also some downsides to that. And those downsides include tech companies like Netflix and Apple and Amazon having much deeper pockets than studios do, and they can pay more, and that's starting to scare the studios. [...] So, the studios are having a conservative reaction, and they're trying to downplay their need for stars. They're trying to force IP to be their star, and in accordance with that, they're also then trying to underpay and diminish the need for stars on their projects."

The director then seemingly criticized Disney's reaction to Johansson's lawsuit: "That was really not an appropriate way for them to handle that situation. It was disturbing to us as artists. Scarlett is a good friend of ours, and we were disheartened by how it was handled. We're glad it’s resolved."

In September 2021, The Wall Street Journal published a report, alleging that the Russo Brothers had "hit an impasse" in negotiations to direct a new Marvel Studios film, presumably as a result of Johansson's lawsuit (via Screen Rant). When asked by Den of Geek whether they were indeed in negotiations to return to the House of Ideas, Joe Russo declined to comment.

Russo isn't the only MCU talent to express their support for Scarlett Johansson regarding the lawsuit. During a conversation with Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis for Vanity Fair (via Deadline), Scarlett Witch actor Elizabeth Olsen stated about the dispute: "I think she’s so tough and literally, when I read that, I was like, 'Good for you, Scarlett.'"

The Russo Brothers' latest film, The Gray Man, will be available at select theaters on July 15, 2022, before being released on Netflix on July 22, 2022. Black Widow is available to stream on Disney+ and to purchase on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD. 

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