Scarlett is suing Disney over Black Widow’s release (Picture: AP)

Disney has accused Scarlett Johansson of having a ‘callous disregard for the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic’, after the actress sued the company for releasing Black Widow on streaming.

Johansson, 36, has sued Disney for releasing her standalone Marvel film Black Widow on its streaming platform Disney Plus at the same time it was released in cinemas, alleging this was a breach of her contract.

The actress, who plays the titular superhero, aka Natasha Romanoff, in the film, claims that her contract with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment was for a guaranteed exclusive movie theatre release, with the bulk of her salary depending in large part on the film’s box office performance – and alleges that the move to streaming prevented her from ‘realising the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel’.

In a statement, Disney has called the lawsuit ‘sad and distressing’.

A spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company said: ‘There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. 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.’

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It had been reported that ScarJo initially earned earned $15million (£10m) for Black Widow, which will be her ninth and final Marvel film.

Black Widow opened to $80m (£57m) in the U.S. and Canada, setting a Covid-era box office record, and earned an additional $60million (£43m) on Disney Plus and $78million (£55m) overseas; however, it stands to be one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies.

Disney Plus subscribers had to pay extra to watch Black Widow on Premier Access, costing an extra £19.99 until it is available to watch for free within a subscription on October 6.

Johansson claims that her reps sought to renegotiate her contract after learning of the dual-release strategy for Black Widow, but says that Disney and Marvel were ‘unresponsive’.

Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski said of the lawsuit: ‘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. 

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The film was simultaneously released in cinemas and on Disney Plus (Picture: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

‘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.

‘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 honour its contracts.’

Johansson first appeared as Natasha Romanoff in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and went on to star in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Solider, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.

Her character was killed in Endgame, with Black Widow – on which she was also an executive producer – acting as a prequel.

The superhero film also stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone and Rachel Weisz.

Johansson is reportedly expecting a baby with husband Colin Jost, and skipped many in-person promos for Black Widow, including its London premiere. 

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