After more a more than a decade of anticipation and a delay of more than a year, a Black Widow solo picture comes to theaters and Disney+ Premiere Access on July 9. Prior to the release of the film the cast and creative team met virtually to discuss the new viewpoint and new ensemble of characters introduced by “Black Widow.”
On the panel was producer and president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, director Cate Shortland, Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff), Florence Pugh (Yelena Belova), Rachel Weisz (Melina Vostokoff) and David Harbour (Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian).
Kevin Feige and Cate Shortland addressed the challenges of creating a solo film revolving around a character who, despite screen time in many Marvel films, is still shrouded in mystery.
Shortland: From the beginning when we spoke about the film, we knew that it had to speak to two things, which was Natasha as an individual and then what had happened to her and who she was at the beginning of the film, which was she was completely alone. And then we knew as well that I wanted it to be really fun and … I kinda thought it should be like a fairground ride, so really exhilarating…. So 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, that rather that we came up to answer it. And we often did that with humor.
Feige: 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 with many of the lovely people you see on this Zoom [we] give a hint at the legacy and the future all at the same time, thanks to Cate Shortland. Because Scarlett Johansson is an amazing performer and with each and every appearance you learned more, you saw more, and you wanted to know more. And the fact that we finally have an entire feature dedicated to that was very exciting for all of us.
Scarlett Johansson commented on the significance of a film with Natasha as a solo point after more than a decade of changing to fit the needs of various ensembles, and where the character is at emotionally in this film.
Johansson: I think Cate Shortland mentioned that Natasha at the beginning of this film is really alone for the first time. She’s always been a part of something … starting out with, you know, really not participating at all, and being a victim of the Red Room. And then you know obviously joining Shield and then subsequently the Avengers. I mean she’s always been a part of something that was a 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 realizes 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 this crazy energy and is dangerous, and is full of life, and isn’t needy, but needs her, and-and you know, it’s just she’s so thrown off her game in this. We never get to see her like that and that was fun place to start from. She’s just full of doubt and that leaves a lot of openings for stuff to kind of creep in.
The newcomers to the franchise discussed the family and gender dynamics of the film.
Pugh: I think from the get-go, in the script it was very obvious that they have this connection and they have this relationship. And ultimately despite [Yelena’s] 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 Shortland 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, because she really comes out of the Red Room and can live. And she can buy her own clothes, and she can buy a vest that has lots of pockets and she’s really excited by it. And I think Cate Shortland really encouraged me to find, you know the oddities of her and kinda lean on that.
Weisz: I love stories about women directed by women…. I like stories about people, but it was wonderful to tell a story with three complicated, strong women. Just on the page I just thought [Melina] was a really unusual character. I loved her relationship with her pigs … And, you know, shooting that family scene where the family gets back together in Russia after 20 years was just completely a delightful thing. And we were upstaged by the pigs most days. It was really unlike anything I’ve ever done. It felt incredibly intimate and incredibly emotional. I had to just like, steel myself most days to stop laughing at David Harbour, because he’s one of the more eccentric, original funny people on this planet.
Harbour: What I found developing too was there’s almost a traditional shot, which I feel like is the perfect image for this movie, is all of us around a table in these very, you know, specific positions, which I remember talking about that day that we shot it. But we’re all in super suits. Right? But you have this almost Norman Rockwell thing of like dad coming in last to sit at the head of the table while eldest child sits here and mother and baby sit over here. And I found us all sort of falling into these traditional cliche roles. And then, like, riffing off of that. And that was really fun and satisfying as well.
“Black Widow” opens in theaters and streams on Disney+ with Premiere Access on July 9.