Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have “hit an impasse” with Disney in negotiating a return to the world of Marvel movies. The Russos, who gave the studio one of the biggest movie hits in history with Avengers: Endgame, were eyeing a return to superhero cinema, according to The Wall Street Journal, but the discussions were disrupted by Scarlett Johansson’s recent lawsuit against Disney.
The Russos were said to be concerned about how the project would be released, in the aftermath of Disney‘s restructured strategy owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past year or so, the studio has released films such as Black Widow, Jungle Cruise, and Cruella simultaneously in theaters and Disney+ (for an additional fee), while Pixar titles such as Soul and Luca weren’t given theatrical releases at all, and went directly to Disney+. While it’s unclear what project the Russo brothers would be working on, the directing pair has talked in the past about how what excites them about possibly adapting the “Secret Wars” story is that it would be “even bigger than the ambition of the Infinity Saga,” and have said they would consider returning to Marvel for Secret Wars.
In July, Johansson made headlines for her legal tussle with Disney over the studio’s decision to release her Marvel Cinematic Universe swan song, Black Widow, simultaneously in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service, allegedly impacting her share of the profits. The studio charged subscribers $30 as a “premium access” fee to watch the film on Disney+, after delaying its theatrical release multiple times. But the MCU is an unstoppable train; the delay in releasing even a single title has a domino effect on dozens of future projects.
The WSJ said that while studios can expect to collect around 60% revenue from movie theater tickets sold, Disney stood to make most of the “premium access” fee that streaming subscribers paid to watch Black Widow.
According to Forbes, Johansson was 2019’s top-earning actress, raking in a reported $56 million, $35 million of which came in the form of back-end bonuses for Avengers: Endgame. Disney, in its initial statement in response to Johansson’s lawsuit, let it slip that she’d been paid a $20 million upfront fee for Black Widow.
The Russos, who’ve also directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War for Marvel, have always said that they’d be open to returning to the MCU, provided they have a worthwhile story to tell. But they’re currently busy with their production banner AGBO. They recently concluded filming The Gray Man for Netflix. The $200 million-budgeted spy film stars Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling, and has been described as one of the most expensive movies that the streamer has produced. The Russos’ last film, the drug drama Cherry, starring Tom Holland, was released on Apple TV+ earlier this year.