The stoic silence of Marvel actors starkly contrasts their reaction to allegations that fellow Avengers alum Chris Pratt followed a church known for homophobia.
Avengers star Scarlett Johansson recently filed a lawsuit against Marvel Studios parent Disney for simultaneously releasing the standalone Black Widow film in theatres and on its Disney+ streaming platform. The actor has claimed that the concurrent release on Disney+ led to the film’s underperformance in the box office. According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story, Johansson is believed to have lost around $50 million in earnings from bonuses due to the concurrent release.
Disney has also hit back at the actor and said the lawsuit had “no merit”. It added that the actor’s decision to sue the production house was particularly distressing due to its blatant disregard for the global effects of Covid-19, it said in a statement.
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What is surprising, however, is the stoic silence of Johansson’s Avengers co-stars. Even Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige who, The Hollywood Reporter said, was angered and embarrassed by the lawsuit, has not spoken out publicly.
The stoic silence of Marvel actors starkly contrasts their reaction to allegations that fellow Avengers alum Chris Pratt followed a church known for homophobia. At that time, actor Elliot Page had tweeted that the Guardians of the Galaxy star should address the allegations against Hillsong Church. Soon after, the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Zoe Saldana, James Gunn, and Jeremy Renner came out in support of Pratt.
Johansson, on the other hand, has not found any public support from her co-stars. Several of her co-stars are still associated with Disney with several projects in the pipeline for Marvel Studios, and that might explain the reason behind their stoic silence.
However, Johansson’s lawsuit is more serious than just accusations.
For one, it highlights how female actors are still paid less in Hollywood no matter how popular they might be.
As for the male cast members, the pay is eyewatering. According to a 2013 report on Deadline, Downey Jr. was mulling quitting as Iron Man if the studio did not agree to his salary demands. The Kiss Kiss Bang Bang actor had earned a reported $70 to $80 million from the first Avengers film and was looking for a bumper pay rise following the success of Iron Man 3. In 2014, he emerged as the richest actor in the world, as per Forbes, with $75 million. That same year, Chris Hemsworth was placed in fifth position. While Chris Evans missed out on the top 10 that year, he made the cut in 2019. The 2019 list featured five Marvel actors in the top 10 with Hemsworth, Downey Jr, Paul Rudd, and Bradley Cooper joining Evans.
Johansson’s lawsuit has sparked fresh life into the streaming-vs-theatrical debate that can shape Hollywood for the next half a decade. Several top filmmakers have blasted the inclination of big studios towards gaining subscribers instead of focussing on theatrical releases. The lawsuit’s outcome will also impact how A-list stars get compensated for their future work.
Gerard Butler has already sued Olympus Has Fallen producers, apparently after Johansson’s lawsuit. The British actor has claimed the producers owed him at least $10 million from the film’s global box office. Emily Blunt, who recently starred in Disney’s Jungle Cruise with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is also reported to be mulling a lawsuit after the film was released on Disney+ simultaneously.
Johansson has also received backing from several women’s organisations, including Times Up and Me Too. However, no matter how much support she garners, the silence of her Marvel colleagues is sure to leave a chink in the armour.