Disney isn’t here for Scarlett Johannson’s lawsuit over the release of ‘Black Widow’ and has responded to her claims that the company breached her contract by releasing the film on Disney+.
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” a spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date,” the statement read.
Johansson, 36, filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday in Los Angeles, alleging the conglomerate breached her contract when it released this summer’s blockbuster Black Widow on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time that it was released in movie theaters.
In the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE, Johansson said her Black Widow contract with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment was for a guaranteed exclusive movie theater release, with the bulk of her salary depending in large part on the film’s box office performance.
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit said.
PEOPLE obtained a statement from Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski. “It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price — and that it’s hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court,” the statement read.
“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” it continued.
Johansson has starred as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow since 2010’s Iron Man 2 and has since been an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the company’s Avengers films.
Her character died in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Black Widow was Johansson’s first spinoff film involving her character.
Disney’s decision to release Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming platform matches what the company did for Cruella and Jungle Cruise, the latter which opens in theaters and becomes available on Disney+, for a premium $30 price, on Friday.
Black Widow, which debuted on July 9, earned $80 million at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend and $78 million at the worldwide box office. It earned another $60 million from the Disney+ Premier $30 rental fees on the platform.
Earlier this month, Johansson said in an interview with Fatherly that she had “no plans to return” as Black Widow.
“I feel really satisfied with this film,” she said. “It feels like a great way to go out for this chapter of my Marvel identity.”
It’s a good thing Scarlett’s Black Widow character is dead and gone — because if she wasn’t, she certainly would be after this.