The cast of 'Black Widow' on being family and trying to speak Russian

Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour talk about playing family and the challenges of trying to speak Russian. Plus, David Harbour weighs in on the strange gulag-themed parallels between this film and his role in Stranger Things.

Video transcript

- It still fits.

[WHISTLING]

- Oh, my God.

[LAUGHS]

[APPLAUSE]

KEVIN POLOWY: Scarlett, this is a movie that's existence has been so highly anticipated for a long time. It finally gets made. And then, of course, there's numerous delays because of the tragic circumstances around COVID. It almost felt like snake pit there for a minute. How are you feeling now that it's finally arriving? And also how bittersweet is it for you to wrap up this journey?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: It's actually kind of strangely a good time for the movie to come out. I think this year, we've had so much time collectively to think about where our priorities lie, and sort of regroup and think about how we want to live our lives. And a lot of people have spent so much time away from others that are-- that they're normally very close to.

And this film is about family, and it's about the family you choose, and people lifting one another up through this shared traumatic experience, and coming out the other side, and making active choices. And in a weird coincidental faded way, it's very oddly reflective of some of the things that, I think, we've all been experiencing. And it just feels-- it feels like it's a good time for it to come out. And so it doesn't make it too bittersweet. I think it's mostly sweet.

KEVIN POLOWY: Florence, I don't think it's spoiling anything to say. The film feels like a torch passing from Natasha to Yelena in a lot of ways. What did you learn through this experience, from Scarlett specifically, that's been most valuable to take with you further into the MCU?

FLORENCE PUGH: Oh, my goodness, everything. I mean, I could praise Scarlett all evening, and I will do. But obviously, it's incredibly daunting joining a big family like that. But Scarlett, from the get go was so unbelievably welcoming and only wanted me to feel as safe and as welcomed as possible. And so the potential for me to learn and take in what that world is like and what it's like to make a movie like that was all there for it to be easy. And I think with Cate as well at the center and the leader of the film.

I was really allowed to feel like I was a part of it, and it was collaborative, and it's creative. And I genuinely could not have asked for a better well coming into the MCU and also this film. And just watching the "Black Widow" do her stunts was definitely a pinch me moment every day.

KEVIN POLOWY: It was very cool to get kicked in the face by "Black Widow."

FLORENCE PUGH: But also bear in mind, Scarlett and I was strapped to each other. Every time we're in the air together. Even on motorbikes or in cars. We were just always connected in some way. And so when we weren't shooting, we were just chatting nonsense from the moment we woke up to the moment we wrapped on set. So I really did just get to have a whole summer with Scarlett. And that was like-- it was just awesome to spend time with an amazing woman and a phenomenal actress. So I just like-- we just had a cool summer of being hot, sweaty, and doing some--

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: Hanging 40 feet in the air.

KEVIN POLOWY: Rachel, the majority of your work has been in drama. This feels like a little bit of a departure for you. I know you've been in some action films. And I gotta say, there are a few better moments in this movie than when we first see Molina rock that "Black Widow" super suit. What did you find exciting about entering the MCU, and also what did that moment especially mean to you?

RACHEL WEISZ: It was a very exciting and a real honor to be asked to join the family. And the thing I-- the I found-- people talk about the Marvel family, but the thing I found really, really surprising was that all the producers, the executives, all the people from Marvel, they're very, um, respectful of actors. And, um, they really are interested in the actors imagination. So all of us that, um, contributed-- well, I got to contribute-- I have a supporting role, but I got to contribute ideas. And I know that-- I think everybody did. And I think that's what they do for all actors. So it was really-- it was really lovely. It felt very, very intimate.

KEVIN POLOWY: David, you play the Russian superhero regarding who may be his best days are behind him, maybe not. Just let himself go a little bit. Ah, what did he have to do to get--

DAVID HARBOUR: No way. I don't know what you're talking about, Kevin. I was in peak physical conditioning. That thing you said-- you know what I-- you know when I had my favorite shot in the whole movie is when I run out of the prison and my belly is in front of me swirling around. It was described to me by a friend who saw the movie as a bag of ferrets--

[LAUGHTER]

-- independently of my own body. Yeah, I was huge. I was 200-- and I was bigger than I've ever been in my life. I was 275 pounds, I think, when we started that, 280. And I love every minute of that. God, do I love to eat. And I'll tell you what, I ate everything I could. I'm a big fan of cakes and donuts. And so when you play Red Guardian, you get to just eat whatever you want. It was fantastic.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: But then you are not shrinking. You started shrinking--

DAVID HARBOUR: I know, I know.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: --just as you-- and then it was-- yeah, it was like unbelievable.

DAVID HARBOUR: Then I was horrible to be around. You remember that? I was just cranky and I was--

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: Too cranky.

KEVIN POLOWY: Who among you speaks the best or most Russian? Who can lay claim to that?

[LAUGHS]

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: Zero.

DAVID HARBOUR: Not me.

FLORENCE PUGH: It was very hard. I mean, at the beginning, there was so many-- like in the safe house fight, originally Scarlet and I was supposed to have a whole paragraphs of things to say in Russian. And we started learning it. We were like, yeah, this sounds great. Amazing. And then we started learning the first two lines and we both came into work one day and said, yeah, we have to stop doing that because--

[LAUGHS]

We can't keep on saying and then they speak Russian. Because this is very hard.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: So the language is like there's so-- it's so much-- so many words for such a little payoff. And I was like, this is too much opportunity for failure here. We need to just be short and sweet about it. Yeah, we're not fooling anyone.

KEVIN POLOWY: David, did you practice your Russian hanging around your captors in "Stranger Things?"

DAVID HARBOUR: Look, you and the internet gotta just shut up. All y'all. I've been hearing this about this stuff for a year. Yeah, I've spent a lot of time in Russian prisons, Russian gulags. I was thinking about that. I still got another thing to shoot on "Stranger Things." And I was like, I got to go back and there's got to be some scene in that prison where I can throw in like some little cross or something-- some guy in a red suit. [LAUGHS] Some guy with a shield or something.

[MUSIC PLAYING]