Disney’s got a Majors problem.
Here’s the facts: The red-hot actor — Kang the Conquerer in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” the baddie in “Creed III,” and the bodybuilder in Searchlight’s “Magazine Dreams” — was arrested on the morning of March 25 on accusations of assault, strangulation, and harassment after a reported altercation with a woman.
On March 26, according to Manhattan’s D.A. office, he was charged with multiple counts of assault and attempted assault in the third degree, a count of aggravated harassment in the second degree, and a count of harassment in the second degree.
An ABC News report filed that same day, noting the Army paused its recruitment campaign featuring Majors, added that:
“New York City police said the actor was involved in a domestic dispute with a 30-year-old woman. “The victim informed police she was assaulted,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.
According to police sources, the actor called 911 himself to report his concern about his girlfriend, whom he lives with.
However, when police arrived, the girlfriend allegedly told a different story, saying that she and Majors were in a cab on the way home from a bar in Brooklyn when he physically attacked her, the police sources told ABC News on Sunday.
The patrol officers noticed marks on her body and they then placed Majors under arrest.”
On the day of Majors’ arraignment, criminal defense lawyer Priya Chaudhry vehemently defended her client and shared the following statement with IndieWire:
“Jonathan Majors is completely innocent and is provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows. We are quickly gathering and presenting evidence to the District Attorney with the expectation that all charges will be dropped imminently. This evidence includes video footage from the vehicle where this episode took place, witness testimony from the driver and others who both saw and heard the episode, and most importantly, two written statements from the woman recanting these allegations. All the evidence proves that Mr. Majors is entirely innocent and did not assault her whatsoever. Unfortunately, this incident came about because this woman was having an emotional crisis, for which she was taken to a hospital yesterday. The NYPD is required to make an arrest in these situations, and this is the only reason Mr. Majors was arrested. We expect these charges to be dropped soon.”
This is supposed to be the beginning for Majors. Before he became an in-demand actor, he was a lauded one. In 2020, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Lovecraft Country.” He landed a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for his 2019 breakout “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” He was the co-lead of Spike Lee’s acclaimed “Da 5 Bloods.” He hosted “SNL” pre-Kang.
An arraignment on assault charges is enough to alarm anyone, but at this writing no one knows the full story. If the D.A. drops the charges, as Chaudhry expects, it would be a huge “phew” for Disney, the most family-friendly major studio in Hollywood. “Magazine Dreams” is slated for an awards-corridor December 8 release, and Majors as Kang is the titular centerpiece of 2025’s “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty,” currently in pre-production; his villainy continues in 2026’s “Avengers: Secret Wars,” now in development.
Even then, however, a larger issue may remain. Separate social media accounts from aspiring filmmaker A.B. Allen and actor Tim Nicolai allege that Majors behaved badly in personal and professional situations. When Majors was arrested and several Twitter users said they now knew who Allen was referring to in a cryptic-yet-damning February tweet, Allen replied “Ding ding ding ding.” IndieWire reached out to Majors’ reps for comment.
At this point, both Allen and Nicolai have probably received the most attention in their careers, however unwanted. Both have since locked their Twitter accounts; Nicolai may have foreshadowed the move by saying he will “probably” delete his tweets about Majors if and when “it turns into active harassment” — presumably he meant against himself.
If there’s truth to their claims, it will resonate in a way that the legal system can’t easily remedy or address. If they’re baseless, it’s still noise. Either way, it’s Disney’s problem to solve.
Disney’s situation is familiar to Warner Bros. Pictures. As the lead in DC’s “The Flash,” critically acclaimed actor Ezra Miller also represents a comic-book-cinematic universe-meets-PR-nightmare. One key difference is, to date, Majors maintains his innocence. Miller, who uses the they/them pronouns, announced they were seeking treatment for mental-health concerns in August 2022 following multiple arrests. They pled guilty to trespassing in January 2023 after a May 2022 Vermont home break-in and received one year of probation. In an August 2022 statement, they said they had begun ongoing treatment.
Warners’ decision to move forward with “The Flash” was likely aided by the fact that seemingly everyone who has seen cuts of the film has loved it. Many months ago, an insider who saw a first edit told IndieWire it was already one of the best superhero movies ever. Tom Cruise agrees. “The Flash” is set for a June 16 release.
Majors also received kudos for his debut in “Quantumania,” with many reviews singling him out as a highlight in an otherwise muddled and disappointing film. However, Marvel films are distributed by Disney. No studio wants to find themselves under the spotlight of an assault arraignment, but they’re anathema for the family-friendly Disney.
Disney also owns Searchlight, which hopes to highlight Sundance acquisition “Magazine Dreams” as an awards contender this winter. It desperately wants to avoid any callback to 2016, when Searchlight was still Fox Searchlight and it bought another Sundance hit, “The Birth of a Nation.” It was directed, produced by, and starred Nate Parker, but the world (and Fox Searchlight) learned that in 1999 he faced a rape allegation. He was acquitted in 2001; Parker’s accuser committed suicide in 2012.
The scenario proved that bad publicity very much exists. Despite extensive attempts at image management, the film that Fox Searchlight bought for $17.5 million made just $16.7 million in worldwide box office.
In a post-#MeToo world, it’s become increasingly common for studios to push for language about morality clauses or a reputational insurance policy in talent contracts. As one entertainment lawyer explained to IndieWire, some clauses are specific enough to only be triggered by being charged with a felony; others are so broad that anything a company deems embarrassing could be enough.
Marvel could have its own general liability policies, but the lawyer said protective clauses could be much harder to include in a hot negotiation like “Magazine Dreams.” In a competitive festival situation, it’s not attractive if a distributor also wants to negotiate terms to get out of a deal entirely. (Reps for Marvel and Searchlight did not respond to a request for comment.)
Majors’ “Be All You Can Be” Army ad ran as recently as during Saturday night’s men’s March Madness game. By Sunday morning, it was pulled from TV and the U.S. Army’s social channels.
“The U.S. Army is aware of the arrest of Jonathan Majors and we are deeply concerned by the allegations surrounding his arrest,” a spokesperson for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office said in a statement to IndieWire. “While Mr. Majors is innocent until proven guilty, prudence dictates that we pull our ads until the investigation into these allegations is complete.”