Natasha Romanoff (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Natasha Romanoff is a fictional character portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise—based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name—sometimes known by her alter ego, Black Widow. Romanoff is a spy and an expert hand-to-hand combatant, trained in the Red Room from childhood. She eventually becomes part of the counter-terrorism agency S.H.I.E.L.D., through which the character was introduced to the franchise in Iron Man 2, and then of the Avengers, defending her teammates and the Earth against various threats. The character will headline her own film, Black Widow, which is set to be released on November 6, 2020.

Concept, creation, and casting

Black Widow was initially created as a comic book character named Natasha Romanova, first appearing as a recurring, non-costumed, Russian-spy antagonist in the feature "Iron Man", beginning in Tales of Suspense #52. Five issues later, she recruits the besotted costumed archer and later superhero Hawkeye to her cause. Her government later supplies her with her first Black Widow costume and high-tech weaponry, but she eventually defects to the United States after appearing, temporarily brainwashed against the U.S., in the superhero-team series The Avengers #29. The Widow later becomes a recurring ally of the team before officially becoming its sixteenth member many years later. Her look was substantially revised in The Amazing Spider-Man #86, with shoulder-length red hair, a skintight black costume, and wristbands which fired spider threads.
In 2004, Lionsgate acquired the film rights for Black Widow, and in April announced that a Black Widow motion picture, featuring the Natasha Romanova version, was in the script stage by screenwriter-director David Hayter, with Avi Arad producing. By June 2006, Lionsgate had dropped the project, and the rights to the character reverted to Marvel. 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. Johansson then reprised the role in The Avengers, ', ', ', ' Captain Marvel, and in a leading role in '. 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 September 2010, while promoting the home media release of Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige indicated interest in producing a solo Black Widow film, and 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.
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." Following the development work done and the public support for a Black Widow film to be made, 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 January 2018, Jac Schaeffer was hired to write the script. That July, Cate Shortland was hired to direct. Marvel sought a female director for the project, part of a priority push by major film studios to hire female directors for franchises. Cate Shortland had the backing of Johansson, a fan of the director's previous female-starring film Lore, and was hired to direct Black Widow. The Hollywood Reporter reported in October 2018 that Johansson would earn $15 million to appear in the film, an increase from the "low-seven figure salary" she earned for starring in The Avengers. The $15 million was equal to what Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth each earned in Captain America: Civil War,
', Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. Despite The Hollywood Reporter confirming the amount from "multiple knowledgable sources", Marvel Studios disputed the accuracy of the numbers while stating that they "never publicly disclose salaries or deal terms." The film was expected to be released in May 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the new release date being November 6, 2020.


In Iron Man 2, Romanoff is introduced as Natalie Rushman, an undercover spy for S.H.I.E.L.D. posing as Stark's new assistant. Johansson dyed her hair red before she landed the part, hoping that it would help convince Favreau that she was right for the role. Johansson said that she chose the role because "the Black Widow character resonated with me... is a superhero, but she's also human. She's small, but she's strong... She is dark and has faced death so many times that she has a deep perspective on the value of life... It's hard not to admire her." She stated that she had "a bit of a freak-out moment" when she first saw the cat-suit. When asked about fighting in the costume, Johansson responded
" big part of me is like 'can I move in this? Can I run in it? Can I like throw myself over things with this?' And I think just the prep, you just have to put in the hours. That's what I realized is that just putting in the hours and doing the training and repetition and basically just befriending the stunt team and spending all day, every day, just over and over and over and over until you sell it."

In The Avengers, the character's close friendship with Clint Barton is indicated, about which Johansson said,
"Our characters have a long history. They've fought together for a long time in a lot of battles in many different countries. We're the two members of this avenging group who are skilled warriors – we have no superpowers. Black Widow is definitely one of the team, though. She's not in the cast simply to be a romantic foil or eye candy. She's there to fight, so I never felt like I was the only girl. We all have our various skills and it feels equal".
Regarding her training, Johansson said, "Even though Iron Man 2 was 'one-for-them,' I'd never done anything like that before. I'd never been physically driven in something, or a part of something so big. For The Avengers, I've spent so many months training with our stunt team, and fighting all the other actors, it's crazy. I do nothing but fight—all the time." Johansson earned $4–6 million for the film.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Screenwriter Christopher Markus said that Black Widow was a "great contrast" to Captain America, describing her as "incredibly modern, not very reverent, and just very straightforward whereas Steve is, you know a man from the 40s. He's not a boy scout, but he is reserved and has a moral center, whereas her moral center moves." The Russos added, "She's a character who lies for a living. That's what she does. He's a character who tells the truth. Give them a problem and they'll have different ways of approaching it. She's pushing him to modernize, and he's pushing her to add a certain level of integrity to her life." When asked about Romanoff's relationship with Rogers, Johansson responded,
"By a series of unfortunate encounters, they will be in a situation in which their friendship becomes more intimate. They share many similarities because they live on the defensive without relying on anyone. Also, the two have been working for the government throughout their professional careers. With their friendship they begin to question what they want and what is their true identity."

Producer Kevin Feige stated that more of the character's backstory is explored in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Johansson elaborated, "In Avengers 2 we go back... we definitely learn more about Widow's backstory, and we get to find out how she became the person you see. All of these characters have deep, dark pasts, and I think that the past catches up to some of us a little bit." Regarding where the film picks up Widow's story, Johansson felt it was a continuation of what was seen for her character in The Winter Soldier, with the fact that "' never made an active choice. a product of other people's imposition.' That's going to catch up with her. That's bound to have a huge effect. There's got to be a result of that realization... You'll see her actively making some choices in her life, for better or worse." A mixture of close-ups, concealing costumes, stunt doubles and visual effects were used to help hide Johansson's pregnancy during filming.
Anthony Russo noted Romanoff's torn allegiances in Captain America: Civil War, saying "her head is with Tony's side of things, but her heart is with Cap in a lot of ways." Johansson added that Romanoff is "looking to strategize her position, putting herself in a place where she is able to let the powers that be fight it out" in order for her to "have a better perspective of what's really going on". Describing her character's situation after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Johansson said, "I think that the Widow's past will always haunt her. She's trying to move forward, she's trying to pick up the pieces of her life". She also said that Romanoff is at a point in her life where she can make choices herself, without having others have a hand in the decision process. On the continuation of the relationship between Romanoff and Rogers from The Winter Soldier, Joe Russo said that they wanted to "test it" by having Romanoff point out to Rogers the mistakes the team have made and convince him "that it might not be as black and white as he sees it" and that the Avengers must "find a way to work within the system so that aren't disbanded".
By the events of Infinity War, Johansson said that Romanoff's situation following Captain America: Civil War has been "a dark time. I wouldn't say that my character has been particularly hopeful, but I think she's hardened even more than she probably was before". At the beginning of Avengers: Endgame, Romanoff continues to command several teams from around the galaxy in the Avengers headquarters, which Joe Russo explained resulted from her inability to move on from their failure to stop Thanos, saying, "she's doing everything she can to try and hold the community together...She's the watcher on the wall still." On the decision for Romanoff to sacrifice herself for Barton to acquire the Soul Stone to bring back everyone, Joe Russo stated that it was part of a larger theme exploring the desire to sacrifice, compared to the desire to protect in Infinity War; he says, "When she gets to that scene, I think she understands that the only way to bring the community back is for her to sacrifice herself." McFeely stated, "Her journey, in our minds, had come to an end if she could get the Avengers back. She comes from such an abusive, terrible, mind-control background, so when she gets to Vormir and she has a chance to get the family back, that's a thing she would trade for." To prepare for the film, Johansson underwent a high-intensity workout regimen, which included plyometrics, Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics, as well as a time-restricted eating diet; all are under the supervision of her longtime trainer, Eric Johnson, with whom she had worked since Iron Man 2, the film which introduced her character.
Johansson described the film, Black Widow as "an opportunity to explore the Widow as a woman who has come into her own and is making independent and active choices for herself, probably for once in her life".

Character biography

Early life

Born in Russia in 1984, Natasha Romanoff was trained as a spy in a secretive academy called the Red Room which involved training as a ballerina as a cover, as well as the eventual sterilization of the students. Eventually, Clint Barton is sent to kill Romanoff, but instead chooses to spare her life and recruit her to S.H.I.E.L.D., enabling Romanoff to escape her previous life as an assassin.

Undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D.

After Tony Stark publicly becomes Iron Man and appoints his personal assistant Pepper Potts as CEO of Stark Industries, he hires Stark employee Natalie Rushman to replace Potts as his personal assistant, unaware that Rushman is actually Natasha Romanoff undercover. Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., later reveals this to Stark, and Romanoff then helps Stark to thwart the plans of villains Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko, the latter of whom has remotely taken control of an army of military drones and the armor of Stark's friend James Rhodes. Romanoff successfully defeats Hammer's security forces to return control of the Rhodes' armor, allowing Stark and Rhodes to defeat Vanko and the drones.

Battle of New York

Some months later, while Loki begins his attack on Earth, Romanoff is being held prisoner and interrogated by Russians. Agent Phil Coulson is able to contact Romanoff to inform her that Loki has compromised Barton, and Romanoff promptly overcomes her captors, whom she had only allowed to capture her as a ploy to extract information. Romanoff recruits Bruce Banner from his seclusion in Kolkata to use his expertise to track the gamma signature of Loki's scepter. On board S.H.I.E.L.D.'s helicarrier, she tricks Loki into revealing his plan to cause Banner to become the Hulk, but is too late, as Barton and Loki's other possessed agents attack the Helicarrier, causing Banner to transform into the Hulk and pursue Romanoff until he is distracted by Thor. Romanoff reluctantly fights Barton, and knocks him unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Rogers, Stark, Romanoff, Barton, Thor, and Hulk then rally in defense of Loki's next target, New York City.

Working with Captain America

Two years after the Battle of New York, Romanoff and Rogers are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship's computers for Fury. After an attempt on Fury's life, Rogers becomes a fugitive hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., and meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive, they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Secretary of Internal Security Alexander Pierce is Hydra's leader within S.H.I.E.L.D. To prevent Hydra from using helicarriers to attack the world's superheroes, Romanoff, disguised as a World Security Council member, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D.'s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Romanoff later appears before a Senate subcommittee, while Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra's remaining cells.

Battle of Sokovia and Civil War

Romanoff continues to work with the Avengers, helping them to attack a Hydra facility where they recover Loki's scepter. She becomes romantically involved with Banner, but he and Stark accidentally create Ultron, who captures Romanoff and takes her to Sokovia. Rescued by Banner, she pushes him off a ledge to force his transformation into the Hulk to aid in the battle against Ultron, an act which later influences Hulk to leave Earth altogether. Sokovia is destroyed in the battle, leading to the passage of the Sokovia Accords, over which Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have a falling out. Romanoff initially sides with Stark's team, accompanying them to battle Rogers and his allies at Leipzig Airport, but Romanoff allows Rogers to escape with Bucky Barnes.

The Infinity War

Romanoff later reconnects with a fugitive Rogers, and, two years after the passing of the Sokovia Accords, when Thanos sends his minions to retrieve Infinity Stones on Earth, she, Rogers, and Sam Wilson arrive in Scotland in time to defend Wanda Maximoff and Vision from an attack by members of the Black Order. She travels to Wakanda to aid in the battle against the forces of Thanos, but the defenders are unable to prevent Thanos from obtaining the stones and using them to eliminate half of all life in the Universe.
Romanoff survives the snap, and travels with the newly arrived Captain Marvel and other surviving Avengers to Thanos' garden planet to attempt to recover the Infinity Stones, only to learn that Thanos has already destroyed them. Romanoff then returns to Earth to continue to lead the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers from the former Avengers headquarters in upstate New York.
Five years after the Infinity War, Scott Lang comes to the Avengers headquarters and informs Romanoff and Rogers that he has been trapped in the quantum realm, where time passes differently, affording a means to steal the Infinity Stones from the past and bring back those who were destroyed by Thanos. After working to recruit Stark and Banner to the cause, Romanoff travels to a past version of the planet Vormir with Barton. After an initial scuffle with him over the decision regarding whom to sacrifice for the Soul Stone, Romanoff sacrifices her life so that Barton can obtain the Soul Stone and eventually return to his family. The original five members following the mission later mourn her death and honor her sacrifice, with Banner finally using the Stark Gauntlet to bring the disintegrated back to life. Banner later notes that he had tried at that time to also bring Romanoff back, and failed.

Differences from the comics

Natasha Romanoff in the MCU is a founding member of the Avengers, while in the comics she is a much later addition, and initially a villain who is specifically antagonistic to the team. The MCU version also showed a brief romance with Bruce Banner in Age of Ultron that was also hinted at in later films. No such relationship occurs in the comic books, although the character is shown in the comic books being involved with several other characters, including Hawkeye. In the films, her relationship with Hawkeye is a close but platonic friendship.


David Edelstein of New York Magazine described the presence of the female leads in Iron Man 2 as "a gam-off between Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson in which Paltrow wins on length and then disappears in the glare of her opponent's headlights". Vanity Fair notes that her entrance in that film "famously chose to focus on her desirability rather than her staggering combat skills".
A Daily Beast review of the character's role in Age of Ultron lamented that the character had been made to "function as a cog that services the storylines" of the male characters. Vanity Fair described the development of the character across the films as "a trajectory that's been as all over the map as Black Widow's varying hairstyles", stating that she "spent her years in the MCU as an accessory to narratives foregrounding other heroes".
Vox notes that in Avengers: Endgame, "Johansson takes Romanoff — usually the dependable, no-frills assassin — into quiet, stoic suffering", while Vanity Fair laments that the film "never gives her or her death room to breathe".


2010Iron Man 2Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
2010Iron Man 2Scream AwardsBest Science Fiction Actress
2011Iron Man 2Saturn AwardsBest Supporting Actress
2012The AvengersTeen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
2012The AvengersTeen Choice AwardsChoice Summer Movie Star: Female
2013The AvengersKids' Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2013The AvengersKids' Choice AwardsFavorite Butt-Kicker
2013The AvengersPeople's Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2013The AvengersPeople's Choice AwardsFavorite Face of Heroism
2013The AvengersPeople's Choice AwardsFavorite On-Screen Chemistry
2013The AvengersMTV Movie AwardsBest Fight
2014'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
2014'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie: Liplock
2015'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2015'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Duo
2015'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Action Movie Actress
2015'Saturn AwardsSaturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
2015'MTV Movie AwardsBest Kiss
2015'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
2016'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2016'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Action Movie Actress
2016'Kids' Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2016'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
2016'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie: Chemistry
2016'Critics' Choice AwardsBest Actress in an Action Movie
2017'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2017'People's Choice AwardsFavorite Action Movie Actress
2017'Kids' Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2017'Kids' Choice AwardsFavorite Butt-Kicker
2017'Kids' Choice Awards#Squad
2017'Saturn AwardsBest Supporting Actress
2018'MTV Movie & TV AwardsBest Fight
2018'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Action Movie Actress
2018'People's Choice AwardsFemale Movie Star of 2018
2019'Kids' Choice AwardsFavorite Movie Actress
2019'Kids' Choice AwardsFavorite Superhero
2019'Teen Choice AwardsChoice Action Movie Actress
2019'Saturn AwardsBest Supporting Actress
2019'People's Choice AwardsFemale Movie Star of 2019