Warning - This article contains spoilers for Black Widow.
While the full spotlight was on Scarlett Johansson throughout her Marvel Studios swan song, Black Widow wasted no time in creating a new star.
Audiences left the MCU's first film of Phase 4 adoring Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. Natasha Romanoff's sister balanced humor with grit, setting herself up to be a major player moving forward. After escaping the Red Room's mind control, Belova and Romanoff teamed up one last time to take down Dreykov's operation.
It's hard to imagine anyone else playing opposite Johansson in this solo flick. According to the film's director, Pugh was on the top of her list of actresses she wanted to star in Black Widow.
FLORENCE PUGH: TOP PROSPECT
The Marvel future for Florence Pugh is bright.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Black Widow director Cate Shortland said she's had her eye on Pugh before she even signed on to direct the film:
"The first time I met Kevin, Victoria [Alonso] and Lou [D’Esposito], they asked me who I’d like to work with if I was to do the film. I hadn’t read any scripts or anything; it was just, 'Which actors are you excited by?' And Florence was the first person I mentioned. I’d seen Lady Macbeth a couple of times, and I really wanted to work with her. And then I met her in London with Brian Chapek, my producer, and we just got on really well."
Pugh's energy was a strong selling point for Shortland, as she emphasized her confidence in the young actress's ability to match a veteran like Scarlett Johansson:
"By putting her with Scarlett, I knew that Scarlett would have someone on screen with her that could match her energy."
Her impressive filmography is what got Shortland's attention, but Pugh had an unknown talent that took her performance to another level:
"But what we didn’t know at that stage was that Florence had been a dancer. So it made the fight sequences so much more dynamic because she can handle the choreography. And when they were fighting in the apartment, you’ve got this really balletic, athletic stuff happening between the two of them because of Florence’s experience with dance."
AN MCU DUAL THREAT IN FLORENCE PUGH
It's the little things that take performances to the next level.
Florence Pugh's balletic background puts her in an extremely unique position in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While most A-list stars are contractually obligated to let their stunt doubles handle the dangerous feats, some Marvel actors have showcased their skills in the safer, hand-to-hand combat action.
The Winter Soldier's famous knife flip is a trick that comes from the hands of Sebastian Stan, as the actor revealed he used to practice the move walking around his house:
"My friends were making fun of me. I was just kinda walking around the house for a while just sorta flipping this plastic knife. I mean, I was driving in intersections and just flipping it in the car."
Similar to Stan, Marvel Studios now has an actress it can trust to provide a new layer to fight choreography. Pugh did get to showcase her skills plenty in Black Widow, but she's only scratched the surface when it comes to where she can take action scenes.
Based on the film's post-credits scene, fans won't have to wait much longer to see Pugh suit up once again. As exclusively reported by The Direct, Pugh will reprise her role this fall in the Hawkeye Disney+ series, presumably hunting down Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton.
Hopefully, the Avengers' resident archer hasn't been skipping ballet class.
Pugh can be seen in Black Widow in theaters and streaming on Disney+ via Premier Access now.