Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit was predicted to have major ramifications for Disney, Marvel and Hollywood itself when details of it first emerged at the end of July, and the legal action already appears to have had a domino effect on Marvel’s future movies.
The extent of Johansson’s unhappiness with the treatment of her solo Marvel blockbuster was crystal clear when she decided to sue Disney over breach of contract after Black Widow debuted in theatres and on the Disney+ streaming service at the same time. The actress said she had been given a “guarantee” from Disney that the film would get an exclusive theatrical release, and they had seemingly broken that agreement.
Variety predicted that Johansson’s lawsuit might “impact the way that movie stars are compensated in the streaming era and may inspire a wave of fresh legal action by actors upset that their films are not exclusively debuting in theaters”, but it looks like it may have also put the Russo brothers off returning to direct another MCU installment, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
Anthony and Joe Russo have been at the helm of some of Marvel Studios’ most ambitious and successful projects to date, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, but the new report says that the pair have now hit an “impasse” with Marvel thanks to the ongoing Black Widow lawsuit.
“Since the lawsuit, brothers Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, directors of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing movie of all time, hit an impasse in negotiations to direct another Marvel movie,” the WSJ noted, adding “The Johansson dispute left them unsure how their next movie would be distributed and how they would be paid, according to people familiar with the matter.”
It’s unclear which Marvel project the duo were in line to direct next, but Joe Russo has previously revealed that he’d be keen to helm a Secret Wars film.
“That was one of the first books that I really fell in love with as a kid,” he told MTV in 2019. “This notion of, you know, event storytelling, and I think that’s part of the reason that we gravitate so strongly towards these event films and these ensemble films is the notion that you can contain so many different characters and so many different points of view and galvanize them around a story point is really compelling to us.”
Marvel have been heavily-rumored be planning a Secret Wars project for some time, and it’s a potentially huge one that could feature not only the Avengers, but the X-Men and the Fantastic Four going into battle together.
Secret Wars writer Jim Shooter recently claimed he’d had a call from Marvel regarding the potential use of some characters utilized in the original Marvel Comics run, including the Beyonder, Titania and Spider-Woman, and Marvel boss Kevin Feige finally addressed the growing chatter in an interview last month.
“I’ve seen those rumors as well,” he told Comicbook. “Why is everyone talking about that now? That’s what I want to know. I think one person writes about it, and then another person writes about it, and then everybody’s writing about it, and then it’s happening. Secret Wars is a great, giant crossover. There are a lot of great, giant crossovers that we could [adapt] — it’s the ongoing embarrassment of riches of Marvel Comics.”
If Marvel were ever planning to make a Secret Wars movie with the Russos, or any other huge crossover movie, they could find it to be an even bigger task than they first envisaged if Johansson’s lawsuit has started affecting negotiations with yet more of their reliable regular collaborators.