Jamie Lee Curtis is more than familiar with the horrors of Hollywood, on screen and in real life, so there’s perhaps no better person for an actor going head-to-head with a major studio to have in their corner.
Consider Scarlett Johansson in good company, as Curtis has fiercely come to her defence in her ongoing legal battle with Disney over the hybrid release of Marvel’s standalone Black Widow film this summer.
In a lawsuit filed in July, Johansson claimed that Disney breached her contract and shortchanged her pay to boost its own streaming service by simultaneously dropping the much-delayed blockbuster in cinemas and on Disney+.
While Johansson’s public supporters have been few, Curtis didn’t mince words in a piece honouring Johansson as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for its annual issue.
“I recently watched her own the screen as the Black Widow, who exacts revenge on a powerful figure who manipulates (emphasis on man) women to fight for him,” Curtis wrote in an essay published on Wednesday.
“And then I saw her brilliant response to a real-life manipulation (same emphasis), when she filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the studio, alleging its decision to release the film simultaneously in theaters and on streaming cost her substantial losses in pay.”
“Whether as an assassin with a conscience, an actor with an emotional center or, having just given birth to her second child, a fierce mother, the message is clear: Don’t f-ck with this mama bear,” Curtis continued.
The Halloween star said that she “always felt a kinship” with Johansson over their shared birthday, but her appreciation deepened when Johansson portrayed her real-life mother Janet Leigh in the 2012 biopic Hitchcock.
“We spoke — she wanted to understand my mother’s interior life. There were obvious touch points: they shared Danish roots, a passion for acting and multiple talents,” Curtis recalled. “There’s a moment in that movie that startles me, where I look at Scarlett and she is my mother.”
Curtis’ comments arrive days after Johansson’s co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, who appeared alongside her in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, addressed the lawsuit, calling it “a bit of a mess.”
Fellow Avenger Elizabeth Olsen has been Johansson’s most supportive Marvel co-star.
“I think she’s so tough and literally when I read that I was like, ‘Good for you Scarlett,’” Olsen said, reacting to news of the lawsuit. “When it comes to actors and their earnings, I mean, that’s just, that’s just all contracts. So it’s either in the contract or it’s not.”
The legal battle between Johansson and Disney got even more contentious after the studio said her lawsuit showed a “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The statement was widely criticised at the time, with Johansson’s agent calling it a “direct attack on her character” and blasting the studio for “shamelessly and falsely” accusing the actor 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.”