Black Widow (2020 film)
Black Widow is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is intended to be the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson from a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson, and stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow alongside Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz. Set after , the film sees Romanoff on the run and forced to confront her past.
Development of a Black Widow film began in April 2004 by Lionsgate, with David Hayter attached to write and direct. The project did not move forward and the film rights to the character reverted to Marvel Studios by June 2006. Johansson was cast in the role for several MCU films beginning with Iron Man 2. Marvel and Johansson expressed interest in a solo film several times over the following years, before Schaeffer and Shortland were hired in 2018. Benson joined in early 2019, with Pearson added later. Filming took place from May to October, in Norway, Budapest, Morocco, Pinewood Studios in England, and in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia.
Black Widow is scheduled to be released in the United States on November 6, 2020, as the first film in of the MCU. Its release was delayed from an original May 2020 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
PremiseFollowing the events of , Natasha Romanoff finds herself alone and forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Romanoff must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow:
- Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova / Black Widow:
- David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian:
- O.T. Fagbenle as Rick Mason: An ally from Romanoff's S.H.I.E.L.D. past who is romantically interested in her.
- William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross: The United States Secretary of State and a former U.S. Army general.
- Ray Winstone as Dreykov: The head of the Red Room.
- Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff / Black Widow:
Additionally, Olivier Richters has been cast in an undisclosed role. The character Taskmaster will be featured in the film, who has taken control of the Red Room. The character studies his opponents' fighting style in order to mimic them and learn how to use it against them. Robert Downey Jr. will appear in his MCU role as Tony Stark / Iron Man.
DevelopmentIn February 2004, Lionsgate acquired the film rights for Black Widow, and in April announced David Hayter as writer and director of the film, with Marvel Studios' Avi Arad producing. By June 2006, Lionsgate had dropped the project and the rights reverted to Marvel Studios. Hayter and Marvel tried getting another financier to develop the project, but Hayter "never felt comfortable that we had found a place that was willing to take the movie, and the character, seriously." This left Hayter "heartbroken", but he hoped the film would be made "some day".
In January 2009, Marvel entered early talks with Emily Blunt to play Black Widow in Iron Man 2, though she was unable to take the role due to a previous commitment to star in Gulliver's Travels. In March 2009, Scarlett Johansson signed on to play Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, with her deal including options for multiple films. In September 2010, while promoting the home media release of Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige stated that discussions with Johansson had already taken place regarding a Black Widow standalone film, but that Marvel's focus was on 2012's The Avengers. Johansson appeared in that film as the character, as well as 2014's ', 2015's ', 2016's ', 2018's ', and 2019's '. After the release of Age of Ultron, Johansson revealed that the number of films on her contract had been adjusted since she first signed to match the "demand of the character", as Marvel had not anticipated the audience's "great reaction" to the character and her performance.
In February 2014, Feige stated that after exploring Black Widow's past in Age of Ultron, he would like to see it explored further in a solo film, which already had development work done for it, including a "pretty in depth" treatment by Nicole Perlman, who co-wrote Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. The following April, Johansson expressed interest in starring in a Black Widow film, and said that it would be driven by demand from the audience. That July, Hayter expressed interest in reviving the project for Marvel, and the following month, director Neil Marshall stated that he "would to do a Black Widow film," saying he felt the character was "really interesting she doesn't have any superpowers, she just has extraordinary skills, and the world that she comes from, being this ex-K.G.B. assassin, I find that really fascinating." In April 2015, Johansson spoke more on the possibility of a solo Black Widow film, seeing the potential to explore the different "layers" of her depicted in the different films so far, but also stating that "right now I think this character is used well in this part of the universe". While promoting Captain America: Civil War the next April, Feige noted that due to the announced schedule of films, any potential Black Widow film would be four or five years away. He added that Marvel was "creatively and emotionally" committed to making a Black Widow film eventually.
In July 2016, Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, stated that he was open to directing a Black Widow film, feeling he could make "a spy thriller. Like really do a good, paranoid, 'John le Carré on crack' sort of thing." In October, Johansson discussed the potential film being a prequel, saying, "you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program. There's all kinds of stuff that you could do with it." She did caution she may not want to "wear a skin-tight catsuit" for much longer. The next February, Johansson said that she would dedicate herself to making any potential Black Widow film "amazing. It would have to be the best version that movie could possibly be. Otherwise, I would never do it... have to be its own standalone and its own style and its own story." Due to the development work already done, and the public support for a Black Widow film, Marvel ultimately decided that the "best time to move forward with the project" would be at the beginning of the "latest phase" of the MCU in 2020.
In October 2017, Feige met with Johansson to discuss the direction of a potential solo film, before Marvel began meeting with writers for the project, including Jac Schaeffer. Schaeffer met with Feige again in December, and was hired to write a script for the film before the end of 2017. Schaeffer and Johansson were set to discuss the direction of the film at the beginning of February 2018. Marvel began meeting with female directors to potentially take on the project, part of a priority push by major film studios to hire female directors for franchises. By the end of April, the studio had met with over 65 directors for the project in an "extremely thorough" search, including Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Chloé Zhao—who was eventually chosen to direct Marvel's The Eternals—Amma Asante, and Lynn Shelton. In the following months, this was reduced to a shortlist of 49 directors before the top choices of Cate Shortland, Asante, and Maggie Betts met with Feige and Johansson in June. Mélanie Laurent and Kimberly Peirce were also in the "next-to-final mix". Shortland had the backing of Johansson, a fan of the director's previous female-starring film Lore, and was hired the next month.
The Hollywood Reporter reported in October 2018 that Johansson would earn $15 million for the film, an increase from the "low-seven figure salary" that she earned for starring in The Avengers. $15 million is what Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth each earned for the third films in their MCU franchises—Civil War and ', respectively. The pair also earned that amount for co-starring in Infinity War and Endgame. Despite The Hollywood Reporter confirming these amounts with "multiple knowledgeable sources" for their report, Marvel Studios disputed the accuracy of the numbers and said that they "never publicly disclose salaries or deal terms."
Pre-productionIn February 2019, Ned Benson was hired to rewrite the script, and Feige confirmed the studio was not looking to have the film receive an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, which had been rumored previously. The following month, Florence Pugh entered negotiations to join the cast as a spy who is "morally opposite" to Romanoff. Marvel had been considering Pugh for the role since late 2018 but began looking at other actresses, including Saoirse Ronan, in early 2019. The studio returned to Pugh for the role after she received strong reviews for her performance in the film Fighting with My Family. In April 2019, Pugh was confirmed to have been cast alongside David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and O-T Fagbenle.
Feige likened the film to the television series Better Call Saul, which is a prequel to the series Breaking Bad, because it was "a wonderful example of a prequel that almost completely stands on its own... it informs you about so many things you didn't know about before." Shortland added that when Feige realized an origin story might have been expected because it was a prequel, they "went in the opposite direction" with the film. Speaking to Romanoff's fate in Endgame and how some fans were upset she did not have a funeral in that film, Shortland said Johansson felt because Romanoff was a private person and did not know many people, she would not have wanted a funeral. However, Black Widow allowed "the ending to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring."
Filmingbegan on May 28, 2019, in Norway. By early June, production moved to Pinewood Studios in London, while Ray Winstone joined the film later that month. The film was officially announced at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con in July, with a release date of May 1, 2020, revealed alongside roles for some of the new cast members. In August, bodybuilder Olivier Richters announced that he had been cast in the film. The next month, Deadline Hollywood reported that Robert Downey Jr. would appear in the film in his MCU role as Tony Stark / Iron Man. A wrap party for the film was held at the end of September, before production moved to Macon, Georgia for the week of September 30. Filming locations in Macon, including Terminal Station, were dressed to portray Albany, New York. Set photos in October revealed William Hurt would appear in the film in his MCU role as Thaddeus Ross. Filming also took place in Atlanta, Budapest, and Morocco. Filming officially wrapped on October 6, 2019.
Regarding the film's action sequences, Shortland said they had to have "peril at its heart" and be "really emotional but also story-driven." How to Train Your Dragon was also a source of inspiration for Shortland.
Post-productionIn January 2020, a special look trailer credited Eric Pearson as the screenwriter for the film, with Schaeffer and Benson receiving story credit. Additionally, Jeff Sneider of Collider pointed out that the trailer's credit block did not include a cinematographer for the film. He revealed that earlier reports suggesting that Rob Hardy was hired as cinematographer had been correct, but Hardy had left the production before filming began and instead Gabriel Beristain had served as the cinematographer for the film. Sneider wondered if contractual obstacles were to blame for Marvel not crediting Beristain so far, but felt he would be credited in marketing materials leading up to the film's release. In mid-March, Disney removed the film from its release schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, Disney announced that Black Widow would now be released on November 6, 2020, and the rest of their slate of films were shifted to accommodate this change.
Musicwas revealed to be composing the music for the film in January 2020. Late in post-production, Lorne Balfe replaced Desplat as composer, which Desplat confirmed in May 2020.
MarketingWith the film's official announcement at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, it was promoted by Feige, Shortland, and cast members who introduced footage from the first 30 days of production. The teaser trailer for the film, featuring some of the footage that was shown at Comic-Con, was released on December 3, 2019. Several commentators noted that the film was "long awaited" or "highly anticipated" by fans, and highlighted the spy thriller tone of the trailer. Rachel Leishman of The Mary Sue described finally seeing the trailer for a Black Widow film as "surprisingly emotional", and felt that setting the film between Civil War and Infinity War would allow the character to grow into her more mature form from the latter film, after earlier MCU films had depicted the character in a supporting role to the male Avengers. Scott Mendelson of Forbes compared the trailer's story and tone to the films Atomic Blonde, Red Sparrow, and Anna, but felt that starring a familiar character would give Black Widow a commercial advantage over those films. Mendelson thought that this aspect could outweigh the teaser's focus on "family melodrama" over superheroics, which he compared to Thor. The Hollywood Reporters Richard Newby highlighted what he found to be noticeable differences between Shortland's shot composition and cinematography in the trailer from the styles of Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, all directors who helped to define Black Widow in previous MCU films.
The final trailer was released on March 9, 2020. Nicole Carpenter of Polygon called it "the most in-depth look at the film we’ve seen yet". Josh Weiss of SyFy Wire enjoyed the "quieter, more personal moments" of the trailer in addition to "all the action we've come to expect from the MCU". Mendelson described the trailer as "a noticeable improvement over the teaser", attributing this to the appearance of multiple Black Widow characters which he said "keeps the stakes somewhat grounded and presumably ties into the film’s notion of found families, forced families and actual family ".
ReleaseBlack Widow is scheduled to be released in the United Kingdom on October 28, 2020, and in the United States on November 6. It is set to be released in IMAX, and will be the first film released in Phase Four of the MCU.
The film was originally scheduled to be released on May 1, 2020. In early March 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic had caused the closure of theaters in many countries, the release date for the film No Time to Die was shifted from April 2020 to November 2020. Commentators began speculating about the potential for other large films like Black Widow to be postponed as well. Deadline Hollywood reported on rumors in the film distribution industry suggesting that Black Widow would take the November release date of Marvel's The Eternals, with the latter being delayed until 2021, but Disney confirmed at that time with its exhibition partners that it still intended to release Black Widow in May 2020. After a final trailer was released for the film a week later, Scott Mendelson at Forbes highlighted how the trailer's existence and use of the May 2020 release date confirmed that the film was not being delayed. He said this was "the logical choice at this juncture", feeling the film was "already in its ideal release date" and there was no evidence that the pandemic would affect the film's performance in the U.S. A week after that, theaters across the U.S. had been closed due to the spreading pandemic with gatherings larger than 50 people being discouraged by the CDC. Disney removed the film from its May release. Discussing this decision for Variety, Adam B. Vary and Matt Donnelly questioned whether the MCU could be impacted more by this delay than other big properties due to the interconnected nature of the franchise. A Marvel Studios source told the pair that changing the film's release date would not affect the rest of the MCU timeline, and they speculated that this was due to the film's status as a prequel. In April, Disney changed its entire Phase Four release slate, giving The Eternals November 2020 release date to Black Widow and shifting all its other Phase Four films back in the schedule to accommodate this.