Hollywood stars are fighting back.
One day after Scarlett Johansson, 36, sued Disney over the release of the superhero film Black Widow alleging a breach of contract, Gerard Butler, 51, has filed a lawsuit against the producers of 2013 hit Olympus Has Fallen.
In his suit, filed on Friday, the Scottish actor alleges producers Millennium Films, formerly Nu Image, understated domestic and foreign receipts by tens of millions of dollars and failed to report $8 million that went to its own executives. Butler is demanding $10m he claims he's owed from the profits.
“Producers have earned tens of millions of dollars from Olympus, but refuse to pay Butler a penny of the grosses and profits promised to him in the parties’ agreement,” the lawsuit states.
“Butler refuses to tolerate Defendants’ misrepresentations and other wrongful conduct. Butler worked with Defendants to create a highly successful movie franchise. He demands his fair share.”
Olympus Has Fallen grossed $170m worldwide, according to Variety, and spawned two successful sequels, London Has Fallen (2016) and Angel Has Fallen (2019), in which Butler reprised the role of secret agent Mike Banning.
According to the suit, Butler’s contract entitled him to 10 per cent of net profits, plus 6 per cent of domestic adjusted gross receipts above $70m and 12 per cent of foreign adjusted gross receipts above $35m, Variety explains.
His production company was also entitled to 5 per cent of net profits, and Butler was to receive certain bonuses for hitting box office thresholds.
The lawsuit claims Butler hired an auditor who found that domestic receipts were understated by $17.5m, and producers’ receipts were understated by $12m, including the $8m that went to the executives. It also claims that Millennium instructed distributors to deduct certain expenses, such that receipts would be under-reported.
On Thursday, Black Widow star Johansson sued Disney over its decision to release the superhero film on streaming at the same time as in cinemas, alleging a breach of contract that cost the star millions of dollars.
Johansson was entitled to a percentage of box office receipts from the much-anticipated Marvel film, a lawsuit filed at Los Angeles Superior Court said.
The film was originally due for a big-screen release in 2020, but was delayed several times owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and was eventually released in July simultaneously in cinemas and on Disney+.
“It's no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly on to Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company's stock price – and that it's hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext to do so,” Johansson's lawyer, John Berlinski, said.
“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honour its contracts,” he said.
A representative for Disney – which owns superhero movie powerhouse Marvel Studios – dismissed the lawsuit, telling AFP that Disney had not breached any contract and that “there is no merit whatsoever to this filing”.
Disney also accused Johansson's lawsuit of a “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”, an accusation that has been slammed by various Hollywood bodies.