Calling Alan Horn! As the nasty war between Scarlett Johansson and Disney continues to escalate and rage on in the public eye, might it not be beneficial for someone within the not-so-Magic Kingdom — such as Horn — to intervene and help diffuse the hostilities?
A highly respected industry statesman who’s always been a voice of reason, Horn should step in and try to get Disney to dial down the vitriol that is alienating some of its own movie fans, angering talent reps and women’s activist groups.
Lest we forget: Horn was the seasoned executive who was hired at Disney by leader Bob Iger back in 2012 to help steady the ship after it was rocked by the tumultuous regime of Rich Ross and a string of costly box office flops.
“I fully expect to be a stabilizing force,” Horn said at the time in an interview with Brent Lang, who was then working for a shall-not-be-named trade publication. “All I want to do is keep the waters as calm as they can be.”
Two years into his tenure at Disney, Horn was quoted in an interview in The New York Times saying, “Every once in a while there is a mess, and I try to help.”
Well, here’s a really big mess that needs cleaning up! It would be a fitting swan song for Horn to work his magic before his expected retirement in December.
Clearly, Disney was upset and obviously embarrassed when Johansson filed suit last week claiming the company had cheated her out of potentially tens of millions of dollars in backend compensation by simultaneously releasing “Black Widow” on Disney Plus and in theaters. And I’m not arguing the merits of the suit here, but for the industry’s most powerful media company to issue such a mean-spirited statement publicly slamming and shaming a major star with whom it had shared a mutually successful multiyear business relationship over nine films was beyond the pale of corporate decorum. Couldn’t Disney’s PR machine have written a more measured objection to the litigation rather than call her breach-of-contract suit “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic”?
Johansson’s agent, CAA power broker Bryan Lourd, was not about to stand by and let Disney get away with implying that his client was somehow disregarding the huge impact of the pandemic on the entertainment business. “They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be something they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd said in a public statement uncharacteristic of his usual behind-the-scenes demeanor.
Also, in an uncharacteristic move, Disney, which like other studios never divulges details of its financial dealings with talent, somehow felt compelled to reveal that Johansson had already earned $20 million in compensation for “Black Widow.” Lourd was appalled that Disney included her salary in its press statement, calling it “an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”
In this case, perhaps Disney should be ashamed of itself.