Marvel's Black Widow has been a long time coming.
Originally set to kick off the MCU's Phase 4 back in 2020, the solo film centered on Natasha Romanoff endured multiple COVID-19-related delays. But, nine long months after fans first saw its original teaser, Black Widow will finally arrive in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access July 9 ,2021.
However, the pandemic wasn't the only obstacle that Marvel Studios and Johansson faced when setting out to give Black Widow her due. In fact, getting the film's director on board proved to be a mission all on its own.
BLACK WIDOW DIRECTOR TOLD MARVEL NO
According to Variety, Black Widow director Cate Shortland was initially opposed to joining the MCU, having told her manager "there’s no way I can do this movie, and I’m not sure why they’re asking me. It’s crazy, the whole endeavor."
Thankfully, Shortland's agent held off and apparently "never told them [Marvel] no." But, the director's agent wasn't the only one keeping the door open.
Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson was determined to book Shortland after having seen her second film, Lore, claiming that despite the number of directors out there, "it was only Cate for me from the beginning:"
“One of the wonderful things about working for Marvel and their track record is a lot of incredible people raise their hand to work on these films. But it was only Cate for me from the beginning. It was very important to me that the person that directed this film had to have made a masterpiece and then some other good movies. One masterpiece, you know? And I really think ‘Lore’ is really so close to — I mean, it’s a perfect film.”
Yet, despite the Marvel tenured actress' efforts, Shortland wasn't easy to convince or track down as Johansson admitted that "she was very elusive. It was very hard to find her.”
Shortland described her early conversations with the actress as "tentative," but it was Johansson's authenticity and genuine conversation with the director's daughter that began to win her over:
“We were quite tentative with each other. She told me how much she had liked some of my movies, and then I told her how much I have liked some of her performances. It was like a courtship. We made lists of, like, our top 20 favorite songs, and our top 20 favorite movies, and our top 20 favorite things, and we sent them to each other. And I remember the first time we Zoomed, my daughter was in the house. I was like, ‘Oh sorry, my daughter is making a lot of noise. Oh, can I meet your daughter?’ What I got from that was she didn’t change when she spoke to me or my daughter. And that’s where I became very inquisitive about who she was, because that’s a rare thing.”
While the Australian filmmaker had seen Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, she was largely unfamiliar with the MCU; and, as she began to wade into the franchise's expansive library, she claimed, "it didn’t get less crazy. It got more crazy.”
While no two films are alike in the MCU, Shortland eventually realized that Black Widow was always going to be different, special, and more than just popcorn, action flick.
Firstly, a Black Widow solo film has been a long time coming considering Natasha Romanoff first appeared in the MCU back in 2010's Iron Man 2. But, there's also the fact that this film is a prequel set after the events of 2016's Captain America: Civil War and before Natasha Romanoff sacrificed herself in Avengers: Endgame.
Plus, Natasha Romanoff is no ordinary Avenger. In addition to a checkered past, she's an assassin, not a super-soldier or a god. She doesn't even have a special suit.
This is what convinced Shortland to helm the film, saying that when she decided, "I decided 150%:"
“I got hooked on the idea of trying to tell a really personal, intimate story in amongst so much beauty and spectacle. When I really decided that I wanted to do it, I decided 150% — like, I never wanted to do anything as much as this, in a way. It was strange.”
SCARLETT JOHANSSON IS AN MCU HERO
How Shortland was won over to the MCU is a testament to Johansson as a person, not just an actress, and Marvel Studios as a whole.
Johansson's reasons for selecting Shortland and her willingness to pursue the director despite her misgivings are proof that she cares just as much about the film and her character of Natasha Romanoff as fans do. This kind of investment from the Marvel Studios actors is one of the many things that sets the MCU apart and why audiences feel the films are so personal.
In addition, hiring Shortland as the film's director is another instance of Marvel Studios selecting talent and leadership based on what they can bring to the table and not necessarily star power or box office returns.
And, it sounds like the director enjoyed herself and may be open to staying in the Marvel sandbox, suggesting that a Black Widow sequel sans-Johansson could be a possibility.
Black Widow will hit theaters and Disney+ via Premier Access on July 9, 2021.