December 7, 2021

The Politics of HollyWeird: Actors Fight Back Against Streaming

Editor’s Note: Whether on screen or off, Hollywood can always be counted on to keep us entertained. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Join us each week as we shine the spotlight on Tinseltown’s A-listers and their whacky and sometimes inspiring takes on today’s current events.

Marvel actress Scarlett Johansson made headlines recently after filing a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Co., claiming her Black Widow contract was breached when the movie was released on Disney+. According to the star, her agreement was exclusive to theaters. Instead, the film was distributed on Disney+ at the same time as it was in the theaters, which she believed led to her losing money from Box Office earnings. While Disney suggests Johansson was taking advantage during a COVID pandemic and that her $20 million should be enough, the actress’ lawsuit insists the movie company’s actions were just a way to build up its fledging streaming business:

“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak’, rather than waiting a few months for the market to recover? On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johansson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive market.”

GettyImages-1233605537Scarlett Johansson Black Widow

(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

The complaint also claims that Disney’s actions “not only increased the value of Disney+, but it also intentionally saved Marvel (and thereby itself) what Marvel itself referred to as ‘very large box office bonuses’ that Marvel otherwise would have been obligated to pay Ms. Johansson.” Disney called the lawsuit “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” WarnerMedia and Warner Bros. have reportedly given as much as $200 million to talent whose movies have opened or will be opening on the big screen and HBO Max, including Gal Gadot and Will Smith.

One of the arguments is that by pushing the movies to streaming channels, the Box Office will suffer, as people would rather stay home and watch than go to the theater. Black Widow earned $80 million its opening weekend, but then dropped off 68% during its second weekend in North America.

Johansson’s lawsuit has taken Tinseltown by storm as more actors take note of how they may be getting the shorter end of the stick. Gerard Butler filed his own complaint against Nu Image/Millennium Films for his movie, Olympus Has Fallen. He claims to be owed at least $10 million for the 2013 action film. So far, two other stars are reportedly watching their options closely: Emma Stone and Emily Blunt. Stone, who played the lead role of Cruella in the 101 Dalmatians origin story, and Blunt, whose Disney’s Jungle Cruise is currently in theaters and streaming on Disney+, have deals similar to Johansson’s and are purportedly keeping a close eye on the earnings.

Cheers And Jeers

Sometimes, HollyWeird players make headlines for silly or bizarre happenings, so here is a collection of newsworthy doings — honorable and dishonorable — by the tenants of Tinseltown.

The Prince – Not So Great Reviews

It didn’t take long for a spoof of the royal family to make its way to television. However, the new animated series, The Prince, may have taken things a bit too far. The 12-episode series, created by Family Guy producer Gary Janetti, airs on HBO Max and makes fun of the family in some very controversial ways. Prince George is depicted as a young, tyrannical prince while Prince Charles runs around the world declaring “it’s my turn” to be king. Not so bad yet, right? How about Prince William being carried to the bathroom to, well, use the facilities, while the late Prince Philip, voiced by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, is drooling and collapsing on the floor as the family looks on?

The show wouldn’t be complete without a parody of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now would it? Orlando Bloom, star of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, is the voice for Harry, who is, ironically, one of his best friends. After moving to Los Angeles, the prince is confused about living in an apartment and says to his wife, “This might be the smallest palace I have ever been in.”

Queen Elizabeth is shown as a “tantrum-throwing mafia boss,” as the Daily Mail described. In one clip, she is seen talking to Prince George, her great-grandson. “Sweetheart, you have no idea how much hard work it is to be head of a state family and syndicate,” she says, then is startled by an attendant whom she shoots dead.

Viewers were not happy with the show’s premise, especially when it came to how the children and Prince Philip were depicted. “I’m no royal family fan or anything, but seeing as Prince Philip has passed away the way he’s portrayed on #ThePrince on HBO is a little upsetting,” complained one commenter. The network released a statement saying it would make adjustments since the original series had been created before the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.

The cartoon is not yet available in the U.K.

Markle as a Mentor for Women?

While on the topic of the royal family, Meghan decided to start a mentorship program for women to help them get back into the workforce. She announced the idea on her 40th birthday and calls the initiative the “40×40” plan, which asks for 40 of her female friends to pledge 40 minutes of their time to advise other women who are going back to work. So far, Markle has a shortlist of friends who have promised to join her venture, including poet Amanda Gorman, singer Adele, and even Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

GettyImages-1211452919 Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle
(Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

But hold on. Not so fast. According to Hannah Martin from the Talented Ladies Club, this newest idea may do more harm than good. Martin, a member of the U.K.’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Enterprise, said the scheme was “a little like a publicity stunt” with “no structure or advice on how anyone can participate.”

The Duchess of Sussex, Martin explained, needs to make sure the team is made up of the right kind of advisers because the wrong one can “destroy” the women’s self-esteem and confidence. “Mentorship can be incredibly powerful, especially if your confidence has been knocked,” Martin agreed, then added, “However, the key words here are ‘right person.’ The wrong words or poor advice can do more harm than good – however well meaning they may be. I’ve spoken to women whose self-belief has been destroyed through working with the wrong mentor.”

Tune in next week to see what else Tinseltown has planned.

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