Oscar winner Emma Stone has closed a deal to return for Cruella 2, prompting her agent to address dealmaking in the streaming age.
Some people (i.e. know-nothings on Twitter) speculated that Stone would be among the stars to file lawsuits against Disney after Scarlett Johansson waged war with the Mouse House, accusing it of interfering with her Marvel contract when the studio decided to make Black Widow available day-and-date on Disney+. While several Disney stars surely explored their legal options, none have sued the studio to date.
Signing Stone up for a Cruella sequel could be viewed as a preemptive countermove, or it could just be smart business for Disney, which released the first film at a cost of $29.99 on Disney+ Premier Access under the same hybrid model as Black Widow. Cruella, which is based on the 101 Dalmatians villain, reportedly took in $21 million on Disney+ that first weekend before going on to gross more than $220 million worldwide.
Deadline broke the Cruella 2 news, reporting that it’s unclear whether the sequel will be made exclusively for theaters or Disney+, or whether it will enjoy the same day-and-date release as the first film. But agents and the business affairs departments at studios are now starting to account for that uncertainty, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Stone will be appropriately compensated no matter where Disney chooses to release Cruella 2, be it in theaters, on Disney+, or a combination of both.
Patrick Whitesell, Stone‘s longtime agent at WME, rarely comes down from the mountaintop to speak to the press, but Deadline managed to get an interesting quote from him about dealmaking in the streaming age, when the metrics of success are ever-changing.
“While the media landscape has been disrupted in a meaningful way for all distributors, their creative partners cannot be left on the sidelines to carry a disproportionate amount of the downside without the potential for upside. This agreement demonstrates that there can be an equitable path forward that protects artists and aligns studios’ interests with talent,” Whitesell told Deadline. “We are proud to work alongside Emma and Disney and appreciate the studio’s willingness to recognize her contributions as a creative partner. We are hopeful that this will open the door for more members of the creative community to participate in the success of new platforms.”
I mean, that’s a great statement that gets to the heart of this whole brouhaha, which is that talent needs to share in the upside when it comes to streaming success. Studios shouldn’t be able to point to old, pre-pandemic contracts and hypothetically say, ‘well, Scarlett Johansson, you only get paid what you deserve if your movie does well in theaters, so we’re going to put your movie on Disney+ without compensating you even though we know it’ll eat into the film’s box office haul.’ That’s not right, and it’s why I think Johansson is fighting the good fight right now. She has a fair point.
But Emma Stone didn’t want that fight, nor did she need that fight. After all, Johansson‘s run as Black Widow is over. Stone could play Cruella for years, quite frankly, as there are still plenty of needle drops left on the Disney-approved jukebox. If there’s any money she feels she missed out on the first time around, I’m sure her reps ensured that Disney made her whole again with this lucrative sequel deal. Right now, Disney is just gathering data, but it does have to pay for that data, as A-list movie stars are the wrong people to cast as sacrificial lambs in the process.
As previously reported Cruella director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Tony McNamara are both returning for the sequel, and I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry alongside Stone. If Disney is smart, they’ll also bring back costume designer Jenny Beavan, who seems likely to score an Oscar nomination for her work. Of course, Cruella 2 is still a ways off, but it’s nice to know that Stone is locked in, and just like those doggone dalmatians, her contract with Disney is in black-and-white.