April 6-7, 2024
Set after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and focusing on one Avenger while introducing a handful of new, exciting characters, Black Widow feels like a breath of fresh air within the MCU following a very busy few years.
The team behind it, spearheaded by Australian director Cate Shortland, knew they could have a lot of fun with the character, but were also aware they had to focus on Natasha Romanoff’s past, which is inherently dark.
“It was always like putting her at the center of it, but making sure that we didn’t let the trauma of her past drag it down,” Shortland said during a global Black Widow press conference attended by Supanova.
“And we often did that with humour. I wanted it to be really fun and thought it should be like a fairground ride, so really exhilarating.”
Marvel boss Kevin Feige, also in attendance, added: “We very specifically knew there was a large period of her life that we didn’t know about. Not just her childhood, but this period of time between Civil War and Infinity War.
“And that period we felt was ripe to creatively focus on, to be able to discover more about her past and more about her present. And many of the lovely people you see on this Zoom give a hint at the legacy and the future all at the same time.”
Taking part in the conference alongside Feige and Shorthand were cast members Rachel Weisz (‘Melina Vostokoff’), Florence Pugh (‘Yelena Belova’), David Harbour (‘Alexei Shostakov’) and of course, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow herself — Scarlett Johansson.
“I think Cate had mentioned that Natasha at the beginning of this film is really alone for the first time,” Johansson notes.
“You know, she’s always been a part of something… part of a greater whole. And then suddenly she finds herself sort of floating in this weird in-between space and she’s off her game. And she realises that she’s got all this possibility in front of her and it’s really suffocating.
“And then she’s blindsided by this person who comes from her past who is just on fire and is a liability and has got this crazy energy and is dangerous, and is full of life, and isn’t needy, but needs her. She’s so thrown off her game in this. It’s great to see her like that. We never get to see her like that.”
That disruptive force is Yelena, portrayed by Pugh.
“On my goodness, how do I approach that character?” Pugh asks when quizzed by the moderator. “Well, I think from the get-go, in the script it was very obvious that [Natasha and Yelena] have this connection and they have this relationship.
“And ultimately despite, you know, her skillset she is that wonderfully, annoying young assistant that says all the right things in all the wrong times.
“So that wasn’t hard at all for me to get into that. I think something that I really appreciated was Cate was so welcoming of me to figure out how she thinks and how she moves and what she wears. And I think for me that was such a fun part of figuring out this character.”
Pugh’s Yelena isn’t the only comic relief in the film, with Stranger Things favourite David Harbour as Alexei and, as noted by the moderator, most of the time the character is hilarious when he’s not intending to be.
“Thank you very much for laughing at me, not with me,” Harbour joked.
“I mean the funny thing about him is… he is filled with grief and remorse about the choices that he’s made like, emotionally, spiritually, nutritionally, right? The comedy itself comes out of the ego that is built to defend against the feelings of that remorse.
“So in other words, he has to be somewhat bombastic because he can’t stop and feel these things, you know, the failures that he made. He has to build a psychotic reality where he’s the hero. And that’s inherently silly and inherently funny. And also the family dynamics themselves are just so fun.”
Playing perfectly off Harbour is Rachel Weisz as Melina.
“I love stories about women directed by women,” Weisz says.
“I love playing opposite women. And I really loved playing opposite the Red Guardian, Alexei, as well, so I don’t wanna leave him out. I mean I like stories about people, but it was wonderful to tell a story with three complicated, strong women.
“On the page, I just thought she was a really unusual character. I loved her relationship with her pigs.
“Shooting that family scene where the family gets back together in Russia after 20 years was just a completely delightful thing. And we were upstaged by the pigs most days.”
Weisz also notes it was “unlike anything I’ve ever done”.
“It was incredibly intimate and incredibly emotional. I had to just steel myself most days to stop laughing at David Harbour, because he’s one of the more eccentric, original funny people on this planet. So yeah, it was really lovely.”
Black Widow is now in cinemas and on Disney+ With Premier Access*.
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LEAD IMAGE: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios’ ‘BLACK WIDOW’. Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2020