Posted on Friday, August 13th, 2021 by Eric Vespe
Emma Stone will be returning as iconic Disney villain Cruella de Vil for a sequel to their recent live-action exploration of the character.
Deadline reports that the star has closed her deal with Disney and that the deal includes provisions that would keep both parties happy should Cruella 2 end up in a similar day and date with Disney+ situation that the first film did.
This is the crucial paragraph of their story because Disney’s in a tornado of sh*t right now due to their decision to release their pre-Covid slate simultaneously in theaters and on VOD. It wasn’t that long ago that there were news stories about Emma Stone contemplating suing Disney over this decision.
Contract Complications Explained
The reason is simple: These big actors structure their contracts so that they get a huge chunk of their fee in bonuses. Most of the time that means hitting milestones in theatrical release, like a lump sum when the movie hits $100 million at the box office and another if it surpasses $250 million, etc. You get the picture.
It’s a way for them to participate in the profits these huge franchises earn without having to rely on the notoriously shady studio accounting. Remember, this is the town where a movie can cost $7 million, make half a billion dollars, and still not be in profit somehow.
Theoretically, this is also great for the studios because they don’t have to pay as much upfront and instead just siphon off some of the profits of their successes. If the movie bombs then, well, sorry. No extra money.
So, when studios release a movie with those deals in place, day and date on a streaming service unquestionably cuts into the box office. That’s even in this Covid era where theaters aren’t anywhere close to being back at full power.
That’s the basis of Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit over Black Widow and in the wake of that suit came the whispers that Emma Stone was weighing her options in regards to Cruella.
If you’re Disney (or Warner Bros, or any major studio for that matter), the last thing you want to do is be faced with a cascade of breach of contract lawsuits from the biggest stars in Hollywood demanding compensation for a unilateral decision from the studio to undercut their potential earnings.
It’s a double bad look if it’s your female stars leading this fight.
So it is both surprising and not at all surprising that this deal came about. Surprising because it’s so close to the scuttlebutt that Stone was inches away from suing the company and not at all surprising because Cruella ended up a modest hit (even in this shaky pandemic era) and was very well-liked by critics and audiences alike.
Johansson’s already out of the MCU, but Stone still has a big future ahead at the Mouse House. It was definitely in the studio’s best interest to make nice, and guarantee her that what happened with Cruella won’t happen on a sequel, and I’d wager a little bump in up-front pay to smooth things over.
That last part is pure speculation on my part, but considering the quick turnaround from “She might sue” to “She signed up for a sequel!” I think it qualifies as an educated guess at the very least.
Johnson and Johansson
Real quick, there’s a bizarre paragraph in Deadline‘s story about this. It brings up Johansson’s lawsuit and then swiftly pivots to how great Dwayne Johnson is at being a team player, pointing out how much he uses his social media clout to endlessly promote Jungle Cruise.
There’s no argument that The Rock is a top-tier showman and badass, but that struck me as odd. It was almost like they were saying Johansson’s being a diva and The Rock is a loyal saint.
Let’s not forget that The Rock has a whole separate seven-figure contract on each project where he specifically gets paid to endlessly promote the project to his millions of followers. He’s a great salesman, but he’s not doing it out of the kindness of his heart.
Behind the scenes contracts are always a little sticky, and that’s only exacerbated now as a worldwide pandemic has forced dramatic change to exhibition. We have no idea what the next couple of years will look like. Are theaters niche? Are people now conditioned to enjoy first-run movies at home? Or will things go back to normal?
So, it’s very interesting to see how the biggest studio right now is working with their disgruntled stars and future-proofing their contracts.
All that business aside, it’s good news for audiences that Cruella is getting a follow-up film. The first was a surprisingly fun reimagining of one of Disney’s most dastardly villains. The filmmakers added complexity to her and Stone seemed to sink her teeth into the character. More of that is only a good thing for film fans.
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