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‘The Take’: Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney, ‘Jungle Cruise’ Hits Theaters, Big Trailers Stir Oscar Buzz

Variety
Variety
 2021-07-30
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Scarlett Johansson hits Disney with an industry-shaking lawsuit weeks after the day-and-date release of her Marvel movie “Black Widow” and just one day before Disney sets sail with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt on “Jungle Cruise.” Meanwhile, Britney Spears’ hard-working legal eagle heads back to court to fight her conservatorship battle, and early Oscar buzz is growing for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars like Lady Gaga, Will Smith and Denzel Washington. It’s been another busy week in show business.

In the latest episode of Variety’s video series, “The Take,” presented by VIZIO, senior correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister and film awards editor Clayton Davis discuss their takes the week’s biggest headlines. Johansson’s lawsuit is significant because she challenges the studio’s right to shift to a dual theatrical and Disney Plus Premium Access release, meaning that Disney Plus subscribers can pay $30 to download the movie for unlimited views.

“Jungle Cruise” follows “Black Widow’s” path with a simultaneous release in theaters and via Disney Plus Premium Access. In her bombshell lawsuit, Johansson cited breach of contract against Disney for releasing the Marvel film on its streaming platform on the same day as its theatrical release without regard for the terms of her original contract and compensation deal for the film. Disney shot back quickly after word of Johansson’s suit surfaced. The media giant called the “Black Widow” star’s litigation “sad and distressing,” noting its “callous disregard” for the effects of the pandemic.

“Jungle Cruise” is projected to pull in a modest $25 million at the box office in its opening weekend — a low estimate for a movie with a $200 million budget. But one thing’s for sure: Johnson packs major star power.

“This is just the way that the world is going. It has to be a simultaneous release model — both theatrical and streaming — but of course, it’s this big question of how do these studios make enough money at the box office?” Wagmeister says. “But, I’ve got to tell you, my take will always be: I bet on The Rock. Always. Every single time.”

The world also got first looks this past week at two of the year’s most anticipated films. Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” — starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and “an insane-looking Jared Leto,” as Davis says — dropped its first posters and trailer. Detailing the assassination of fashion giant Maurizio Gucci (Driver) by his murderous ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga), the movie has potential to be a huge hit for United Artists Releasing. The starry cast includes Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino.

The emotional preview for Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard,” starring Will Smith, got the internet buzzing about the two-time Oscar nominee’s portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. Distributed by Warner Bros. with a simultaneous release on HBO Max, Smith is one of the few major 1990s movie stars still active who hasn’t won an Academy Award yet. (Tom Cruise is another.) Could “King Richard” be his ticket?

If Smith’s performance lives up to the promise, he could face off against two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington, whose new film “The Tragedy of Macbeth” from A24 and Apple TV Plus, is set to open the New York Film Festival in September. That would be quite a coincidence because it would mark 20 years since Washington won best actor for his performance in “Training Day” (2001), rising to the top of the field that included Smith’s turn in the biopic “Ali” (2001).

As for Spears, the seemingly endless legal battle is moving forward now that the pop star’s new lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, has officially petitioned to remove her father, Jamie Spears, from the singer’s conservatorship. Days after the filing, Spears’ temporary conservator, Jodi Montgomery, supported the move, backing up Rosengart in a filing on the removal of Jamie Spears. Montgomery further stated that Britney Spears’ doctors believe Jamie should no longer be involved.

Another major headline gave the industry quite the scare this week. Emmy nominee Bob Odenkirk was hospitalized after collapsing July 27 in Albuquerque, N.M., on set of his AMC drama “Better Call Saul,” which is filming its sixth and final season. A tidal wave of support came from fellow actors, friends and fans across the globe for the highly regarded performer and writer, prompting a unified message that declared “2021, don’t you dare,” Davis says.

Hosted by Variety senior correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister and awards editor Clayton Davis, “The Take,” presented by VIZIO, navigates the week’s top stories from entertainment, pop culture and media while providing expert analysis and exclusive insight on what’s buzzy and brewing in Hollywood. Filmed in Variety’s state-of-the-art studios in Los Angeles, new episodes are released Fridays on Variety.com, YouTube and social media. The short-form series will also be available on VIZIO SmartCast TVs in July and August.

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