Disney Says Talent Deals Must Change Amid Pandemic as It Battles Scarlett Johansson Lawsuit
CEO Bob Chapek said talent is Disney’s “most important asset” and claimed the company is undergoing a “reset” regarding its contracts.
Bob Chapek Says Talent Contracts Are Going Through a Reset
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday that going forward, talent contracts at the studio “will have to reflect the fact that the world is changing.”
His remarks come as Disney battles a lawsuit from actress Scarlett Johansson alleging breach of contract for her work on “Black Widow.” While making his claims at a virtual Goldman Sachs conference, Chapek did not mention Johansson by name, but he did directly address the issues Hollywood is facing when it comes to compensating talent amid the pandemic.
As COVID-19 halted filmgoing, many movies expected to be box office hits were instead released directly to streaming, while others were released in theaters and on streaming platforms the same day. These models are drastically different from the exclusive theatrical release that films and the stars in them have come to expect over the last several decades.
“We’re sort of putting a square peg in a round hole right now where we’ve got a deal conceived under a certain set of conditions, that actually results in a movie that is being released in a completely different set of conditions,” Chapek said during the conference via numerous reports. “So there’s a bit of a reset that’s going on right now, and ultimately we’ll think about that as we do our future talent deals and plan for that and make sure that that’s incorporated.”
“But right now, we’ve got sort of this middle position where we’re trying to do right by the talent,” he added. “I think the talent’s trying to do right by us, and we’re just sort of figuring out our way to bridge the gap.”
Chapek also referred to talent as Disney’s “most important asset” and said that historically, the company has had a “very symbiotic” relationship with its talent regarding the deals they strike together.
Scarlett Johansson Vs. Disney
That symbiotic relationship is now being put to the test by Johanssen, who hit Disney with a lawsuit in July over its decision to release her “Black Widow” standalone picture for a premium fee on Disney+ the same day it hit the big screen. The actress claims that her contract guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release for the film and that her salary was largely based on what it grossed at the box office. Because viewers had the option to purchase it for streaming at home, she claims she did not see “the full benefit” of her deal.
Disney claimed the lawsuit had no merit. It also released a scathing statement saying that Johansson’s legal effort showed a “callous disregard” for the harmful and prolonged effects of COVID-19, especially since she allegedly received $20 million upfront for “Black Widow.”
Disney is hoping to solve the matter via private arbitration. Johannson’s legal team wants to take the dispute to court.
So far, “Black Widow” has raked in $377 million worldwide. It broke pandemic box office records during its opening weekend but still has not made nearly as much as it likely would have prior to the pandemic.
As for whether or not the dual release strategy actually tanked the film’s earnings, that is hard to say. By comparison though, Marvel’s “Shang-Chi,” which was released exclusively in theaters, is already set to catch up to “Black Widow” at the box office. The film has been out for just under a month and has already made $306 million worldwide.
While many expected to see other A-list actors follow Johansson’s lead and likewise file lawsuits against studios who threw their titles on streaming, so far Disney has had seemingly no issue striking more deals with its talent. In the past several months, it has locked in sequels with stars like Emma Stone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Emily Blunt.
See what others are saying: (The Wrap) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Los Angeles Times)
Max to Agrees to “Properly” Credit Writers and Directors After Facing Backlash For Lumping Them in As “Creators”
The company said the credits were laid out incorrectly due to “an oversight in the technical transition from HBO Max to Max.”
After film and television writers slammed Max for crediting all writers, producers, and directors as general “creators” on its platform, the company said it will be adjusting its credits display.
“We agree that the talent behind the content on Max deserve their work to be properly recognized,” the streaming service said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Max — the new rebrand of HBO Max that incorporates Discovery content — launched on Tuesday to much criticism. Amid glitches and app-switching confusion, the biggest backlash it faced was over the choice to lump creative roles into one credit section called “creators.” As one viral tweet noted, if a user were to select the film “Raging Bull,” the service’s display would not specifically credit Martin Scorsese as the director, rather, his name would be included at random with half a dozen other people, including writers and producers.
The decision was condemned by many in the industry who argued it minimizes writers and directors by not properly giving them credit where it is due. Especially amid the ongoing writers’ strike, and with directors and actors starting negotiations with studios, some took it as a slap in the face.
“The studios don’t want anyone to know our names,” writer Christina Strain tweeted. “It’s easier to pay us nothing if we’re faceless.”
“Another move from studios to diminish the role of writers, directors, actors and other craftspeople. Miss me wit this nonsense,” Jorge Rivera, the Vice-Chair of the Writers Guild’s Latinx Writers Committee, added.
In a statement, Directors Guild President Lesli Linka Glatter said that Warner Bros. Discovery’s choice to “collapse” these roles into one credit “while we are in negotiations with them is a grave insult to our members and our union.”
“The DGA will not stand for it,” Glatter continued.
WGA West President Meredith Stiehm claimed the move was “a credits violation,” as well as an insult “to the artists that make the films and TV shows that make their corporation billions.”
On Wednesday, Max said it would rework its crediting.
“We will correct the credits, which were altered due to an oversight in the technical transition from HBO Max to Max and we apologize for this mistake,” the platform said.
See what others are saying: (Gizmodo) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Los Angeles Times)
A Quarter of Young British Men Support Andrew Tate’s Thoughts on Women
U.K. residents at large, however, do not view him favorably.
Even under house arrest in Romania, misogynist influencer Andrew Tate still holds substantial sway over young men.
According to data from YouGov that was obtained by The Independent, 26% of U.K. men between 18 and 29 years old who know of Tate agree with his views on women. That figure was largely the same for men between 30 and 39, as 28% agreed with Tate’s opinions on the subject.
Men in their 30s were slightly more likely to agree with Tate on his thoughts about masculinity. Three out of ten supported those views, compared to just a quarter of men 18 to 29.
Those statistics only include the thoughts of men who have heard of Tate, but per YouGov, most have. In the 18 to 29 group, 93% were familiar with him, and 86% of men in their 30s knew of him.
The U.K. at large was less aware of Tate, with just 63% of British adults having heard of him. Of that group, only 6% held a positive view of him.
Tate has faced substantial backlash for his sexist rhetoric over the years. In the past, he said that men should have “authority” over their wives or girlfriends, and that women should “bear some responsibility” for being raped. He was previously banned from Twitter over his extremist views on women but has since been allowed back on the platform.
He is currently being investigated in Romania for organized crime and human trafficking. He was arrested and held in custody in December but was released to house arrest earlier this year. No formal charges have been filed against him yet and he has maintained his innocence.
Tate currently boasts a Twitter following of 6.7 million. It has grown significantly since he was enveloped in legal controversy, and many of his supporters have demanded his release.
See what others are saying: (The Independent) (Glamour U.K.)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Involved in “Near Catastrophic” Paparazzi Chase
“While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety,” a spokesperson for the couple said.
“Aggressive” Paparazzi Chase Couple in New York
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were involved in a “near catastrophic” paparazzi car chase Tuesday night in New York City, according to a spokesperson for the couple.
In a statement, the spokesperson described the photographers as “highly aggressive.”
“While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety,” the statement added.
“This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers,” it continued.
Details of the incident are still emerging, but BBC News reported that there are claims the chase involved roughly six cars driving recklessly by running red lights, driving on the sidewalk, carrying out blocking moves, going backward on a one-way road, and taking pictures while driving.
The chase happened after Harry and Meghan were leaving the Women of Vision Awards with Meghan’s mother, Doria. They did not want photographers to learn where they were staying and attempted to avoid them in what turned into a 75-minute chase on a main road in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They eventually ducked into a New York Police Department Precinct to hide out before getting into a different vehicle.
The NYPD released a statement confirming that they assisted in protecting the couple as “numerous photographers” hindered their transport. Officials said they made it to their destination and there were no collisions, injuries, or arrests.
The couple’s spokesperson is asking the public to not share or post footage of the incident.
“Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all in involved,” the spokesperson said.
Memories of Princess Diana
The chase evokes the brutal press hounding Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was subjected to throughout her life. The paparazzi’s obsession with her ultimately resulted in her death in 1997, when she was killed in a car crash after being chased by photographers in Paris.
Since marrying Meghan and later bowing out of the Royal Family, Harry has made it explicitly clear that he fears those events could happen again. Meghan has been the subject of endless tabloid scrutiny, enduring racism and harassment from the press. Part of the reason they left the Royal Family was to keep their family protected from such attacks.
Mayor Eric Adams brought up Diana’s tragic passing while speaking about Tuesday night’s chase.
“I don’t think there’s many of us who don’t recall how [Harry’s] mom died,” Adams said while speaking to reporters. “And it would be horrific to lose an innocent bystander during a chase like this and something to have happened to them as well…I think that was a bit reckless and irresponsible.”
Adams also questioned whether or not he believes a chase could go on for two hours in a city as congested as New York, but noted that even a 10-minute chase would be dangerous. He said he will be briefed on the exact timeline and details later.