When the news first broke that Scarlett Johansson was suing Disney for breach of contract after Black Widow was sent to Disney Plus Premier Access the same day it hit theaters without the terms of her deal being amended, it was inevitable that any Marvel Cinematic Universe star to have worked with the former Natasha Romanoff would be asked about it anytime they hit the press circuit.
Elizabeth Olsen revealed she was proud of her friend and colleague for standing up to such a monolithic corporation, and now the actress’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness co-star Benedict Cumberbatch has offered his two cents. As is befitting of his gentlemanly reputation, the 45-year-old was every bit as diplomatic as you’d imagine.
“It’s sad what’s going on between the lawyers. Just the verbiage and the accusations of, ‘Put it in a global pandemic context’. The whole thing’s just a bit of a mess. We’re trying to understand what the revenue streams should be for artists that contribute to the billion-dollar business that is Disney. And it has to be contractualized.
How does an artist’s normal compensation with box office bonuses, how does it work? It’s a new paradigm, and it’s a very complex one. No one saw this coming, and no one should use hindsight to say, ‘Well, it should have been done’. That was the first of these films that was going to get a cinematic release during the pandemic and got stalled and stalled and stalled. It’s very new territory.”
Context is indeed key, especially when Disney’s legal team tried to frame Johansson as being greedy when they made a point of mentioning that she’d already earned $20 million from Black Widow. While that’s a fair chunk of change, it’s more a matter of principle, one that reportedly led to Emma Stone negotiating a much better payday for Cruella 2.
It’s a very sticky situation, one that could lead to an industry-wide shift in how talent contracts are assembled as streaming services continue to thrive and the theatrical industry struggles to re-emerge from a pandemic-stricken eighteen months. One thing’s for sure; Cumberbatch won’t be the last MCU star to share his thoughts.