Movie Trivia: Marvel's Black Widow
She’s one of the keystone characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by one of our favorite actors. Black Widow, the Russian assassin who became one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, is one of the most nuanced characters in the MCU. She balances regret and self-doubt with a clearly violent temper. She made connections with Captain America and the Hulk, survived the snap, and sacrificed herself for the future of all. Now, after all that, she finally gets her own movie, as BLACK WIDOW debuts in July.
The character, peerlessly played throughout the MCU by Scarlett Johansson, is more than deserving of her own standalone adventure. And while we eagerly await this newest Marvel Studios romp, we look back on the character (and ahead to BLACK WIDOW) with some tasty trivia.
Black Widow Movie Trivia
1. The character almost hit movie screens before the MCU began. In the early 2000s, long before the formation of Marvel Studios, Lionsgate owned the rights to the character alongside the Punisher. The studio was going to make a movie devoted to the character, written by original X-MEN screenwriter David Hayter. But the failure of Charlize Theron’s AEON FLUX led to the project being canceled and (eventually) the rights reverting back to Marvel.
2. Scarlett Johansson wasn’t the first actress cast in the part. Originally, director Jon Favreau wanted Emily Blunt for the role in IRON MAN 2. Unfortunately, Fox exerted their option on Blunt to get her in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, alongside Jack Black. Enter Scarlett Johansson.
3. Johansson didn’t make much money (at first). When Johansson replaced Blunt, her fee was described (in a headline no less) as "lousy lowball money," especially since it locked her into a series of films, including THE AVENGERS. Johansson had the last laugh, however. She was the second-highest-paid actor on AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, commanding $20 million for her role and getting paid even more for subsequent appearances in the MCU.
4. Johansson took the role seriously. Before shooting IRON MAN 2, she dyed her hair red and trained for six weeks. She continued training for another six months, throughout production.
5. Her first movie alias is a reference to the comics. In IRON MAN 2, she’s introduced to Tony Stark as Natalie Rushman, a reference to a SHIELD operative from the comic books.
6. She actually learned some Russian. To prepare for THE AVENGERS, including a scene where she speaks Russian, Johansson worked hard to learn her lines phonetically instead of merely repeating them. Her language studies paid off at the AVENGERS press conference in Russia.
7. At one point, AVENGERS writer-director Joss Whedon wrote the Wasp into THE AVENGERS. Instead, Black Widow took over the spot vacated by the tiny hero.
8. Scarlett sometimes wrote her own dialogue. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo encouraged improvisation on CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and even had Johansson and Chris Evans write some of their own lines.
9. AGE OF ULTRON was a tricky shoot, for a reason you may not have realized. Scarlett Johansson was pregnant during the AVENGERS sequel production, requiring a number of stunt doubles and extensive digital face replacement.
10. The AVENGERS sequel was the first time we got to see Black Widow’s backstory. In a series of flashbacks/dream sequences, we see Natasha being trained as a ballerina and assassin. (She also reveals she was sterilized as part of her conditioning.) It was the first time audiences saw anything of Black Widow’s troubled past.
11. Black Widow’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON suit was inspired by a different Disney movie. The suit, with the electric blue piping, was inspired by the costumes in TRON: LEGACY.
12. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR references a potential Black Widow bombshell. At one point when Black Widow is fighting Bucky, she says, “You could at least recognize me.” This might be a reference to a comic book arc that reveals they were both augmented with the same technology.
13. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR continues the tradition of Black Widow sporting a different hairstyle in each film. But unlike in other movies, this time she’s no longer a redhead. In INFINITY WAR, her hairstyle is short and bleach blonde.
14. At the start of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Black Widow is an outlaw. Following the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Black Widow has been on the run for two years alongside Captain America and the Falcon.
15. At one point, Black Widow didn’t take that fateful plunge in AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Before production on INFINITY WAR began, the writers toyed with the notion of who would take the fall to obtain the Soul Stone, with Hawkeye dying instead of Natasha. But everyone agreed that it worked better for the character to have Natasha sacrifice herself.
16. Natasha’s death could have been even more dramatic. There’s a version of her death scene where Thanos attacks Vormir, footage of which you can see on the AVENGERS: ENDGAME Blu-ray.
17. She is gone but not forgotten. BLACK WIDOW marks the first solo film based around a character who has died in the MCU timeline.
18. The new movie fills in many story gaps. BLACK WIDOW takes place in the two years that Natasha was on the run following the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Considering the two years in between CIVIL WAR and INFINITY WAR and the five years between INFINITY WAR and ENDGAME, there could be future Black Widow installments still.
19. The release of BLACK WIDOW marks the longest gap in between MCU entries since the time between THE INCREDIBLE HULK and IRON MAN 2.
20. We know who the big bad is … sort of. The villain in BLACK WIDOW is the Taskmaster, teased in the trailers, who has the ability to perfectly mimic anyone they are up against. But it hasn’t yet been revealed who plays the Taskmaster. Considering the starry cast includes David Harbour, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz, and Florence Pugh, it could be anybody!
BLACK WIDOW opens on July 9!
All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.