While fans had clamored for a standalone adventure centered around Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow for years, it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that the idea really began to take shape. Right around Thanksgiving, according to reports, Johansson huddled with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige to hash out the project in earnest.
Six weeks earlier, an explosive exposé from Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker revealed widespread, horrific sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Within days, the #MeToo movement exploded across social media, its impact reverberating across the world.
Indeed, the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo reckoning were top of mind as Johansson began meeting with screenwriter Jac Schaeffer to shape the plot of what would become the first entry in Marvel’s Phase 4, this week’s long-delayed, hotly anticipated Black Widow.
“Unfortunately that’s just one example of so, so many,” Johansson says of Weinstein, with whom she worked on films like The Nanny Diaries (2007) and Vicki Cristina Barcelona (2008), in a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment (watch above).
“We had to comment on what is this incredible movement of women supporting other women, and coming through these shared experiences of trauma on the other side by really coming forward and supporting one another,” she explains. “At the very beginning of really seriously talking about what this could be about, it was right during the beginning of the #MeToo movement and felt like, you cannot miss the opportunity to draw the comparison between these two things.”
During the course of the film, the titular Avenger must come to terms with a ruthless antagonist — a powerful man who abuses and exploits women, herself included.
Set following the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Widow finds Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff in hiding from authorities before being lured by her “sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) into a mission to take down Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Dreykov oversees the Red Room, a nefarious Soviet/Russian military operation in which girls and young women are kidnapped, manipulated, brainwashed and forced into training, ultimately shaped into deadly assassins known as Widows. The story finds Natasha fighting to take down her abuser, and free other women from his control.
“She’s been the victim of childhood trauma and exploitation and it’s a past that she doesn’t want to face that she’s running away from,” Johansson explains. “And then her sister, who’s this very self-possessed kind of firecracker liability in some ways, but person who is fiercely independent, basically forcing her to come to terms with that, forcing her to face it.
“It felt very much like what is happening now," she says. "It was amazing to have the platform to be able to comment on that.”
Black Widow opens July 9.
— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee
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