Marvel’s Black Widow (premiering on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9) stars Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh are teaming up as Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova, but it turns out the on-screen sisterly relationship extends to real life too.
In the highly anticipated solo film for Black Widow, Natasha and Yelena play sort-of sisters, reconnecting after Natasha receives a package from Yelena that leads to a journey to destroy the Red Room, the assassin training group they were a part of in the past. Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokov (Rachel Weisz) once posed as their parents and the "family," but particularly Natasha, takes a personal journey to come to terms with their past.
There are some great moments where Yelena and Natasha bicker, Yelena being the classic annoying little sister who makes fun of Natasha’s iconic squatting Black Widow stance, something the pair still brought up in a press conference in advance of the film’s release.
“I spent 10 years building up this iconic pose with such weight to it, and…in a second she ripped it out, took it, tore it, and shredded it up and stomped on it,” Johansson said.
“Hang on, you were...smiling,” Pugh said in her retort. “You laughed occasionally.”
This dynamic makes sense after Pugh revealed that the first the pair shot together for the movie was a massive fight scene, also on the actor’s first day on set.
“Literally on my first day I was, like, throwing Scarlett up against a wall, and she was smashing my face in the sink,” Pugh said. “There was no greater way [to] just break the ice than really wrestling Scarlett Johansson to the floor.”
“There was no trepidation, we were just like in the muck in that,” Johansson added. “It was unique but it was good.”
Director Cate Shortland jumped in and added that they actually filmed that scene during a heat wave.
“We kept having to stop shooting…because the set was like a microwave oven,” she said. “It was kind of great watching these two women fight and making it look effortless.
“And then they’d stop and we’d kind of hose them down, and then put them back in.”
Florence Pugh steals the show - but don't forget to watch the post-credits scene
Johansson may be the titular character but Pugh's portrayal of Yelena really steals the show. She’s dynamic - displaying fierce power, vulnerable moments, while also being insanely funny. While we won’t spoil the ending of the movie, you will definitely want to hold out for the post-credits scene.
“I think something that I really appreciated was Cate Shortland was so welcoming of me to figure out how she thinks and how she moves and what she wears,” Pugh said. “And I think for me that was such a fun part of figuring out this character, because she really comes out of the Red Room and can [live].
“She can buy her own clothes and she can buy a vest that has lots of pockets and she’s really excited by it. I think Cate Shortland really encouraged me to find the oddities of her and kind of lean on that. So much so that in the end scene you can see that she’s flourishing, she’s becoming her own being.”
Could Red Guardian, Captain America interact?
While Black Widow is the superhero movie many women didn't have anything close to growing up, we can’t forget to mention how hysterical David Harbour is as Alexei.
“He is filled with grief and remorse about the choices that he’s made emotionally, spiritually, nutritionally,” Harbour said. “The comedy itself comes out of the ego that is built to defend against the feelings of that remorse.”
As Harbour enters the Marvel universe, he said he loves the Falcon character and would love to possibly work with Anthony Mackie for a Marvel film in the future, a joining or even a battle, of some kind, between Red Guardian and Captain America.
“Now that [Falcon's] wearing the [Captain America] suit and everything, and the amount of complexity that Alexei has with Cap in general, whoever wears the suit, like, he hates that guy and he hates who he represents,” he said.
“I mean some of the funniest stuff to me is where [Alexei’s] like, you know he actually was a colleague of mine, you know we had a lot of respect for each other. I just think that dynamic would be really fun to see those guys have some stuff together.”
Remembering Black Widow
While Johansson has inhabited Black Widow for years, this time around, knowing her ultimate demise impacted how she approached the character.
“We knew that in this film she had to evolve into a place where she was moving forward in her life and had resolved the trauma from her past...that she felt like a different person moving forward,” Johansson said.
As this movie marks the end of Johansson’s Black Widow, she hopes that the character is remembered for and defined by her integrity.
“She is a big character and she’s not afraid to admit when she’s wrong,” Johansson said. “She’s curious about herself and curious about other people, and I think it makes her stand out.”
“And of course the pose.”