By María Estévez, MWN
In the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson plays Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow. Directed by Cate Shortland with a unique vision and a lot of heart, the action movie features Natasha’s psychological journey and trauma at the center of the story. Metro had the opportunity to participate in the press conference with Johansson, who said she is proud of how her character evolved over time since her first appearance in 2010’s ‘Iron Man 2.’
How do you understand Natasha’s evolution?
When we see her in ‘Iron Man 2’ she’s a caricature of a person, reacting to all the male characters. She’s a complicated leader when we see her in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ In ‘Avengers: End Game,’ she’s a fully formed person. It’s been progressive and I’m proud of that. It was a very unique experience.
How was your relation with Cate Shortland?
She is amazing. I realized that when you have a great script you can bring a great director to be on board. That’s my greatest joy. I love working with directors and helping to make their vision a reality. That relationship is everything to me. It brings me great satisfaction.
What did you want to accomplish with this movie?
It’s an action movie that’s driven by the desire to make the audience feel uplifted. Rather than being a black-and-white character, there’s ambiguity in Natasha. I think that’s what’s beautiful about this film. We started talking about this film as a serious possibility when we were doing ‘Infinity War’ and we knew that in it she had to evolve and move forward, resolving the trauma from her past.
Yelena Belova (played by Florence Pugh) helps to understand Natasha’s trauma?
Exactly. The relationship between sisters is a shared experience as both know what happened to them. I think it will be very touching for a lot of people. I have a lot of empathy for that relationship and for both of those characters’ histories and traumas. And that shared history, as dark as it is, brings them together and there’s a lot of love between them. You’ve seen glimpses of it and it’s developed over time, as we’ve been able to bring the character to the forefront in different installments, but she’s a very compassionate person and that passion is actually what drives a lot of her decision making. I mean, she’s also practical and pragmatic and I don’t think those two things have to necessarily work against each other. That part of her is what really touches me.
Is this a very feminist movie?
Yes. The character has changed over the years and probably a lot has to do with me. I’m a mom and my life is different. Obviously, 10 years have passed since I started with the character and I have evolved, now I do have a better understanding of myself. As a woman, I’m in a different place in my life and I’m able to accept who I am. I didn’t want to over-sexualize the character. She has to be in control.
Is this an origin movie?
In a sense, it is. It was a very weird way of working. I guess that is always the case with a prequel. I have never done anything like that before. It was interesting to be working on something in the present that also played into what you would be doing in the future that was reflective of the past. It was crazy.
After six on-screen appearances as Natasha, you must know the character inside out.
Yes, and I love her integrity. She’s a big character, and she’s not afraid to admit when she’s wrong. She’s kind of endearing that way. She’s curious about herself and about other people, and I think that makes her stand out.
What aspects of Natasha’s character and personality were you able to explore in this film?
You know, I think Cate wanted to show Natasha at the beginning of this film really alone for the first time. She’s always been a part of something bigger, you know, by circumstance. She’s been a part of a group. Starting out with not participating at all and being a victim of the Red Room. And then, obviously, joining S.H.I.E.L.D. and then subsequently the Avengers. So, a person that was a part of a greater whole, suddenly finds herself sort of floating in this weird space and she’s off her game. She realizes that she got all these possibilities 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 got this crazy energy, is dangerous, and is full of life and isn’t needy, but needs her… And she’s so thrown off her game. That’s a fun place to start from.
How was it to work with Florence?
I felt very lucky because Florence is an athletic person. She has a background in dance and she nailed all the choreography. Which was great because it’s such an emotional fight. It’s all driven by emotion. There’s no real end goal there. It’s just two people expressing their frustration and also their power struggle and then their genuine surprise and also affection for one another. It’s like two lion cubs going at it. It was really such a unique way to bond with another actor. But it also felt like a very safe way to do it.
Do you feel liberated thanks to this movie?
Yes. I think Natasha’s strength is part of her vulnerability. Her generosity is powerful and we have seen that in her past. It’s been an interesting evolution and it’s been fascinating to discover it with each director that I’ve worked with. With Cate, it’s just been so liberating because she’s not afraid to show anything, even the uncomfortable parts, like the soft underbelly. That’s what she wants to make movies about. So you will see Natasha’s real true strength in this film more than ever before.