Time's Up, Other Groups Accuse Disney of 'Gendered' Attack on Scarlett Johansson amid Lawsuit

Female-led groups in Hollywood said Johansson was "defending her contractual business rights" in suing Disney for breach of contract

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson. Photo: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Scarlett Johansson is receiving support from several female-led groups in Hollywood following Disney's response to the actress's lawsuit.

Women in Film, Los Angeles, ReFrame and TIME'S UP called Disney's response to Johansson's lawsuit a "gendered character attack" in a joint statement released on Friday.

"While we take no position on the business issues in the litigation between Scarlett Johansson and The Walt Disney Company, we stand firmly against Disney's recent statement which attempts to characterize Johansson as insensitive or selfish for defending her contractual business rights," the statement read.

"This gendered character attack has no place in a business dispute and contributes to an environment in which women and girls are perceived as less able than men to protect their own interests without facing ad hominem criticism," the statement concluded.

A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Johansson, 36, filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday in Los Angeles, alleging the company breached her contract when it released this summer's blockbuster Black Widow on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time that it was released in movie theaters.

In the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE, Johansson said her Black Widow contract with Disney's Marvel Entertainment was for a guaranteed exclusive movie theater release, with the bulk of her salary depending in large part on the film's box office performance.

In Disney's following statement, after the filing was made public, a spokesperson for the 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."

Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Jay Maidment/©Marvel Studios 2020

PEOPLE obtained a statement from Johansson's attorney John Berlinski: "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. 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 honor its contracts," his statement continued.

Earlier on Friday, Johansson's agent Bryan Lourd said Disney "shamelessly and falsely" accused the actress "of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn't," in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

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"Scarlett has been Disney's partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions," Lourd wrote. "The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.

Lourd added Johansson "is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade."

"This suit was filed as a result of Disney's decision to knowingly violate Scarlett's contract," Lourd continued. "They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company, leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That's it, pure and simple. Disney's direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades."

Johansson has starred as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow since 2010's Iron Man 2 and has since been an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the company's Avengers films.

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Her character died in 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Black Widow was Johansson's first spinoff film involving her character.

Black Widow, which debuted on July 9, earned $80 million at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend and $78 million at the worldwide box office. It earned another $60 million from the Disney+ Premier $30 rental fees on the platform.

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