More than 10 years after her character first appeared on screen – and another 14 months since its originally planned release – Marvel’s standalone âBlack Widowâ is finally here.
Simultaneously opening in theaters and as a “First Access” title on Disney + this Friday, “Black Widow” sits between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” and represents swan song from Scarlett Johansson’s original The Avenger, Natasha Romanoff. And it seems even more final, considering (* spoiler alert *), the character sacrificed his life in exchange for an Infinity Stone in the $ 2.8 billion 2019 blockbuster âAvengers: Endgameâ.
Putting Romanoff to rest in âEndgameâ only to dive into promoting his first solo adventure two years later was very strange, Johansson says.
âNormally you don’t have that much distance with something,â she said by Zoom on a recent virtual press day. “Not only is there so much distance, but the distance has [provided] such a strange time of self-reflection for all of us. I had so much time to reflect and appreciate this experience.
A former KGB agent and assassin turned Avenger, Natasha was first introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2010’s âIron Man 2â. Despite being the team’s first heroine, âBlack Widowâ comes along. two years after “Captain Marvel” became the first Marvel heroine to make a standalone release. But would Natasha have survived “Endgame” if her solo movie had arrived sooner?
âI don’t know if that would have changed his fate,â Johansson said. âIt’s hard to say. When we walked into ‘Endgame’ we knew there would be big sacrifices. [So] when I got the call from [Marvel Studios President Kevin] Feige, I kind of anticipated it. It didn’t sound bad, but it was still heartbreaking. But if we had done it earlier it would have changed his ultimate fate, I have no idea.
On the other hand, director Cate Shortland is certain that this film could not have been made at another time. “Two things happened [that made this film possible]: ‘Black Panther‘ created a space for the filmmakers and for various voices, and I also think that gave the studio the confidence that we would come and see these films. I think we were expected to want to watch white men and if they weren’t white men we wouldn’t come.
âAnd after the #MeToo movement, the other thing that happened was we could say what we wanted to say; we could make jokes about the trauma of women and the control of women’s bodies. I think we were expected to make a dark movie and so we wanted to say, ‘No, we’re not going to make a dark movie because we’re not victims. These girls are going to kick ass. ‘ “
Aside from a brief glimpse into her memory in âAvengers: Age of Ultronâ (2015), Natasha’s story has never been described in detail. “Black Widow” aims to fill in some of the gaps, offering a glimpse into her youth and her time in the Red Room, a Soviet brainwashing and training program that turns vulnerable young girls into elite assassins.
âWe had to dig in and find what was at the heart of our story,â said Shortland. “[Marvel producers] Kevin [Feige] and Victoria [Alonso] and Louis [DâEsposito] Really encouraged me to go beyond the ideas of femme fatale, superheroes, all that stuff and think, ‘OK, who is she as a human? “
The film also introduces Natasha’s family unit of makeshift spies (Ã la “The Americans”) with matriarch Melina (Rachel Weisz), father Alexei (David Harbor) and younger sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), a another assassin (or widow, as they are known in the movie).
“It’s always exciting when [new] people join the Marvel family because it’s such a wonderful group of people that I love so much, âJohansson said. âAnd you know so many exciting things are happening for them. I think more than anything, I felt very excited for Florence that this was the start of what I’m sure will be a truly wonderful partnership for many years to come.
Pugh, the British actress who rose to rising fame with an Oscar nominated tour in “Little Women” and the starring role in the cult horror film “Midsommar”, has spent months training at stunts to star. Yelena, a recently defected widow who makes it her mission to destroy the Red Room. âIt was exhilarating,â she said. âThe fighting style was so fast – it was hand-to-hand combat – so it was always rewarding when we finished a really good scene. It was as if we had accomplished something.
“From a member of the audience [perspective], you think everyone [in Marvel movies] does all this work and they practice all the time and they actually fly across the stage – which they are, “she added.” So when I signed on, I really wanted to make myself available and jump into it because I had never been in this world before. Plus, learning how to kickbox and throw Knives from a professional are really cool skills to have, so I didn’t mind.
Johansson passed Pugh the same advice Samuel L. Jackson gave him years earlier: save your energy and don’t be too hard on yourself.
âI remember when Florence and I were doing our fight scene, she was frustrated that we didn’t have a part of it,â Johansson said. “I said ‘Look, this shoot is a long one and your understudy is a professional athlete. They’ve been doing it for 16 years … you’re never going to reach that level of athleticism in four weeks. The grit that comes from all of them. characters you work on will be much more valuable, so don’t be so frustrated that you aren’t a professional assassin after a month.
âI think Scarlett was really open about how to work within this system,â Shortland said. âHow to be an actor, but also how to be a stuntman. What I saw on set was a [experienced] the actor being really open and sincere and putting Florence at ease with a really complex way of working.
âThese films are so long and they are very taxing physically,â Johansson said. ” When I started [in the MCU] in ‘Iron Man 2’ there was this massive fight streak down that hallway. We prepared it a long time before we started touring and it was continuous training [before] eventually shoot this thing for weeks. 10 years ago, a lot of actors were doing a more practical job in terms of stunts, so it was really exhausting and intimidating because I’m not a professional athlete.
âI think what’s beautiful is that Scarlett has come together over the last 10 years and what we’re seeing with Natasha is the same process,â Shortland said. “I think it’s a gift.”
Before the pandemic upset release schedules in Hollywood, “Black Widow” was set to be the official start of Marvel’s Phase Four. It’s still the first movie, but it was preceded by the Marvel TV series âWandaVision,â âThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier,â and âLoki,â which all take place after the events of âEndgameâ. But the delay had unexpected benefits, Johansson says.
âSelfishly, it gave us more time to work on the film,â she said. âAt the start, we had a very quick turnaround. We packed it up at the end of summer  and we would deliver it on May 1st. It was just really, really quick. I think it was the fastest that Marvel had ever turned around for a feature. So we have tried to do our best, but you will always wish you had more time. And then, when we had more time, we were able to polish it. “
âI’m really thankful that they held on and waited to release it properly with a theatrical release,â Pugh said. “I know a lot of people are disappointed that it was not [available] on laptops for a year, but when you work so hard on something … I mean, it’s such an epic movie. It’s so impressive that it would have been really sad to see it come out any other way. So I’m really impressed that it has been kept for the time being and that now people can enjoy it in all its glory.
âI think strangely there’s a lot of space for that now,â Johansson said. “It was a very crowded time when we released it before and I think it has a lot of wiggle room [now], which is fantastic. This is what you would love to have with any big release. And I think it’s a good movie so far. The movie is about the family you choose and after being apart for such a long time and everyone re-evaluating the things that are most important to them, this movie coincidentally reflects a lot of what we’ve all been thinking about in the past. over the past two years. “
Once the Infinity Saga is over, it looks like the next chapter in the MCU will revolve around the idea of ââa multiverse, as the âEndgameâ sequels âSpider-Man: Far From Homeâ and âLokiâ suggest. So, could there be a chance that Johansson would reprise his character after all?
âThe whole concept of the multiverse interests me, mainly because I’m fascinated by the idea of ââan alternate reality,â she said. âJust like the concept of the sliding doors, I think it’s really interesting. But I don’t know if I could emotionally engage in a multiverse storyline. I do not know. I can’t even understand. “
She laughed. âNow I’m going to ruminate on it for the rest of the day. “