Fran Drescher weighs in on Scarlett Johansson’s high-profile lawsuit against Disney (DIS).
The actress, producer and recently named president of SAG-AFTRA joined Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit to discuss fair compensation for actors amid the streaming boom and how she’s approached her decisions as president of the union after taking office for the first time in September 2021.
“It’s an interesting time – it was and has remained that way,” Drescher said, revealing his biggest challenge was trying to unite a dysfunctional union as the industry struggled to overcome headwinds. in the face of the pandemic.
One of those major hurdles, in addition to implementing strict health and safety procedures, stemmed from the decision of various studios to release box office-bound films on streaming services.
Warner Bros. (WBD) was the first to embrace the hybrid release trend in late 2020, announcing that all of its 2021 films will have a day-and-date release on HBO Max, in addition to a theatrical rollout. The studio has delivered on that promise throughout 2021 with top titles like “Dune” and “The Matrix: Resurrections” getting the hybrid treatment.
Disney quickly followed its competitor’s strategy with Marvel’s highly anticipated “Black Widow” prequel releasing on Disney+ on July 9, 2021 – the same day as theaters.
The move prompted Scarlett Johansson to sue the company for breaking contact. According to Johansson’s team, his earning potential was “largely” tied to box office performance, with Marvel promising the movie star the film would receive a theatrical release only.
The Wall Street Journal estimated that Johansson lost over $50 million due to the abandonment of a theatrical-only release. Disney settled with the actress two months later for $40 million.
Although studios have since returned to box office exclusives with shortened theatrical windows, Johansson’s lawsuit has created a significant ripple effect throughout Hollywood.
“As for Scarlett Johansson, I was in the process of negotiating a movie deal shortly after and we handled the negotiations completely differently in the event that the movie went straight to streaming,” Drescher said, revealing that his film ultimately skipped a theatrical release. and, instead, debuted on Amazon Prime Video (AMZN).
As a result of her negotiations, influenced by Johansson, Drescher said she recently received a “big fat check” for her work in the film.
“We were the outsiders in this equation”
Since then, SAG-AFTRA – which represents approximately 160,000 actors, advertisers, recording artists and other media professionals around the world – has worked hand in hand with streaming giants to renegotiate contracts to take into account the evolution of the media. countryside.
“We just had a very successful negotiation with Netflix (NFLX),” Drescher noted. The contract, which included significant changes in favor of background artists, stunt coordinators and voice artists, gives actors more freedom and flexibility to land jobs on other platforms.
Drescher explained that when talks began, the union suggested making incremental changes to an existing contract — an approach the actress passionately disagreed with.
“I saw a convergence of opportunities that probably wouldn’t present themselves for a very long time,” she said, adding that the talks needed to be harnessed with great force and conviction; otherwise, the union would “always be looking for another type of contract which is always just beyond our reach”.
The union has reached a similar agreement with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP). The deal outlined major improvements to “exclusivity” rules, which previously barred TV series regulars from taking new jobs while on hiatus.
It is the journeyman actor, the middle class, who is always in a hurry…Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA
“We were very lucky that they heard us. They understood that we were the underdogs in this equation,” Drescher said.
“The truth is that when an entire industry changes and the rules of the game change on behalf of the employer, the changes must also affect the employees. You can’t have it both ways,” she continued.
Drescher pointed out that SAG-AFTRA negotiations largely focus on “the journeyman actor,” as A-list stars like Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson often strike deals of their own.
“It’s the fellow actor, the middle class, who are always in a hurry. That’s really why unions exist – to protect and defend their rights,” she pointed out.
‘The gift that keeps on giving’
Outside of SAG-AFTRA, Drescher — known for her role as Fran Fine on the popular CBS sitcom “The Nanny” — continues to work as an actress and producer.
Asked about a potential ‘Nanny’ film reboot, the 65-year-old said she would be open to reprising her beloved character on the big screen.
“It’s in discussion stage — I’d definitely be on board. We’ll see what happens,” Drescher teased, adding that a Broadway musical based on the sitcom is currently in development.
“[‘The Nanny’] is the gift that keeps on giving,” she beamed, crediting the show’s new life on HBO Max, which has led to a new generation of ‘Nanny’ fans. “For that, I’m very grateful.”
Alexandra is a senior media and entertainment reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at email@example.com
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