We know everything on Iron Man. We know everything on Captain America, ThorHulk, and even a little on Hawk Eye. But so far, that fifth founding member of the Avengers, Black Widow, has remained a mystery to most, until next month. That’s when, after being introduced to fans 11 years ago, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) will finally get her Marvel Studios origin story. Only it’s not exactly an origin story, besides, she already died sometime in the stream. MCU Timeline.
Black Widow opens in theaters July 9 and tells a story that takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. At the end of Civil war, Natasha was on the run, hunted by her own government for disobeying the Sokovia Accords. The next time we saw her, she had a new haircut, a new attitude, and was on a crash course with fate in the form of thanos. Now the story of Black Widow will turn to Natasha’s past, her family, and much more – basically any question you have about her is likely to be answered along with plenty of new revelations. The person in charge of diving into these depths was director Cate Shortland. io9 talked to him about the nuance of telling a story in this specific window and some of the things that make Black Widow unique to the MCU. (The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Germain Lussier, io9: So obviously, we saw Natasha die in Avengers: Endgame. Knowing that, why is it important to tell his story now at this point in the MCU?
Cate Shortland: I think the fans deserve this movie. I think the character deserves this movie and I think people really want to see her more. I think that was the message Marvel had after leaving the universe was “Noooo!” I feel really lucky to have been part of the circus.
io9: I really enjoyed the movie, but I think my favorite thing is Florence Pugh’s performance as Yelena. It’s so awesome. She sometimes comes across as kind of aloof and innocent, even though she’s a badass. What were your conversations like with her about this character? How did this develop?
Short land: We knew she had to be a free spirit and she had to be really different from Natasha. So Eric [Pearson], who is the screenwriter, put a lot of himself into this character. He’s really goofy and politically incorrect and he’s smart and he put a lot of himself into it. And I think it’s a really great mix, that kind of clumsy male inside that female head. You know? It’s quite funny. And then you have all the Florence stuff where she improvises. And then I also added stuff especially when she is really rude. It was often Florence and me.
io9: The other thing I liked was [cut minor spoiler about Red Guardian, played by David Harbour]. How did this develop?
Short land: Again, I think it’s Eric, the screenwriter, he had all this nice stuff about human fallibility that he just put into the characters. And I think that’s what makes them really endearing is that they’re so flawed and so funny. And, yes, it’s beautiful to watch this kind of superhero break down.
io9: What about the scene where he, Natasha and Yelena get together? Looking at it, it looks like there was probably a lot of laughs during filming.
Short land: You know what? We filmed it so fast because we were losing light.
io9: Oh, wow. Agreed.
Short land: So we were running. But initially, I think the first part, yeah we laughed a lot, but we laughed all the time on this set. We had a lot of fun.
io9: [Cut spoiler question about the film’s post-credit scene].
Short land: I’m really glad you liked it. But we’ll just keep that for the fans so they can enjoy it themselves.
io9: Ok, no problem, so we’ll flip that. It’s the end of the film and it’s the beginning of the film; I can’t remember the last time a Marvel movie had opening credits. Tell me about this decision.
Short land: We wanted to map more of what had happened to Black Widows and the Widow program. So we created more of a framework so that people could, in a very short time, get what the widow program is.
io9: I think that’s cool the film being on Disney+ is that people will be able to go through it frame by frame unlike the theater. Are there any easter eggs people should look for in this sequence?
Short land: Yeah, there are. There are some really good little scenes in this title sequence that come back later.
io9: Perfect. I think the other challenge with this movie is that we know Natasha. We don’t know these new characters, but we do know Natasha. So what steps have you had to take to make it dynamic, but also to fit in with what we’ve seen before and what we know we’re going to see next?
Short land: We knew where she came from. We knew she was a little broken and a little lonely and we knew she would go into this epic battle towards the end. It was as if our film started like nothing. She’s broken, she’s raw and she has to go through this journey where she sort of wonders because if not, what you’re getting yourself into End of Game is a character who is not fully realized when she makes this choice. And what we wanted to do was say that’s why she could make that choice, because she knows full well who she is and she’s accepted it.
io9: Yes, absolutely. Now, as far as I know and read, this movie was nearly finished if not finished when the pandemic hit. So what was the hardest part of waiting for the movie to be released?
Short land: You know what? To tell you the truth, it was not difficult. What was difficult for me was that I felt for journalists and magazines that kept putting us in these magazines. But when you looked at pictures of what was happening around the world, I’m not a martyr, I’m just saying what happened to us was nothing.
io9: Of course. The last thing is that we already loved Natasha and through this movie we will also fall in love with these new characters. I guess we’ll see more in the future, hopefully, so are there any in particular that you feel connected to and would like to help shape their journey?
Short land: I think they were all great. I think… I can’t say because it’s like choosing a favorite child. So I’m going to compress it.
Black Widow opens in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access, July 9.
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