We're gearing up for the release of Avengers: Endgame in April, the epic that may potentially spell doom for some of our favourite Avengers. And that's not the only movie poised to shake up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
In 2020, we're finally getting the Black Widow movie starring Scarlett Johansson. Following years of fan pressure and impatience, it seems like deadly assassin Natasha Romanoff will finally be getting the origin story she deserves. Here's everything we know so far.
It was first announced in 2014...
In the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a Vanity Fair article revealed the following statement from Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige: "We wanted to change the dynamic of the cinematic universe with [Captain America: The Winter Soldier]. We wanted Cap and really the entire cinematic universe to be very different [...] [Black] Widow’s part in that is very big. We learn more about her past and where she came from, and how she became in that film. The notion of exploring that even further in her own film would be great, and we have some development work with that."
... But nothing came of it
Two years later, the project was seemingly on ice again. However, Feige noted that the studio was "creatively and emotionally" committed to bringing it to the big screen.
He added: "We think she's an amazing character. We think Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of her is amazing."
Nevertheless, the conversations continued
Feige told Deadline in 2016: "Where we go beyond that are ongoing discussions that we'll focus on in the next few years because we have a lot to do before then. Of the characters that you’ve just mentioned I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow."
This time, however, it's really happening
In the wake of the recent scandals that have rocked Hollywood, there's clearly more of an appetite than ever for equality and diversity in our favourite blockbusters. Confidence in the Black Widow movie was boosted when, last November, all the women superheroes of the MCU assembled for the following Vanity Fair shot. (Pictured l – r: Zoe Saldana, Tessa Thompson, Brie Larson, Scarlett Johansson, Danai Gurira, Karen Gillan, Evangeline Lilly, Pom Klementieff.)
It'll be Marvel's second female-fronted movie
The Black Widow project is pencilled for a 2020 release, one year after the Brie Larson-starring Captain Marvel arrives this March. Both movies are poised to shake up the male-dominated template of the MCU, diversifying the slate as the studio rounds off phase three of the MCU with Avengers: Endgame.
The movie will be directed by Cate Shortland, an Australian filmmaker acclaimed for indie movie Somersault starring Abbie Cornish and thriller Berlin Syndrome starring Teresa Palmer.
Scarlett Johansson wants to explore Natasha's background
"She's got a really rich origins story," Johansson told Variety back in 2016. "There's a lot of places you can go – you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow programme... You could really uncover the identity of who this person is, where she comes from and where she's part of."
It could make Johansson the world's highest paid actress
Much has been written about the gender pay gap in Hollywood, but Johansson's Black Widow deal may indicate a sea change. The Daily Mail previously reported that she could land $25 million for her role in the movie, an insider noting: "Scarlett will get a huge payday for the Black Widow film, which Disney believes could eclipse Wonder Woman." (Gal Gadot earned a mere $300,000 for that movie.)
On its own terms, Johansson's wage packet would, according to Forbes, place her below 2017's record holder (Emma Stone with $26m), but above the likes of Jennifer Lawrence ($24m).
However, the Mail's source also indicates that Johansson (pictured below in 2014 hit Lucy) will get a revenue bonus if the movie does well at the box office, possibly netting her a record total of $31m. According to the Forbes 2017 rich list (via NME), this would put her below Robert Downey Jr., who commands $48m before bonuses, but roughly on a par with Chris Hemsworth ($31.5m).
It's got a writer
Variety revealed that Jac Schaeffer has been personally selected by Kevin Feige as the film's writer. A rising star of the screenwriting scene, she recently pencilled the script for Frozen short film Olaf's Frozen Adventure. She's also written the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, due for release this year.
Schaeffer is also noted for her script for The Shower, the story of an alien invasion during a baby shower. The script was on Hollywood's Black List of the best unproduced screenplays, and was the one that first brought Schaeffer to Anne Hathaway's attention.
The movie's got some high-profile supporters
The directors of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the Russo brothers, have expressed their enthusiasm for the project.
"Yeah, we're very happy for that," they told the Happy Sad podcast. "I mean it's such a rich and interesting character. There's so much to explore with a character whose history was as a villain, and you know, Scarlett does such a good job of playing her and people are so used to that character that you forget the history, and so there's a lot of compelling stories to tell about someone who has a dark past.
Marvel might make it R-rated
In layman's terms, that means the Black Widow movie has got the potential to be violent and gritty. (The American R rating is broadly equivalent to our 15, or sometimes an especially tough 12A).
A rumour spread by The Hashtag Show's Charles Murphy speculates that Marvel Studios wants the movie to hit the R-rated market. Non-MCU Marvel movies have experienced success in this area before, notably Logan and the two Deadpool movies, all of which exceeded $700 million at the global box office. Kevin Feige has also gone on the record saying that such films are "not out of the question".
Florence Pugh has been cast
There's no denying the increasing pedigree of the film's cast. It's been confirmed by Variety that Fighting With My Family star Florence Pugh will be starring alongside Johansson, although her role remains a mystery. Having stunned in the Dwayne Johnson/Stephen Merchant comedy drama, Pugh will no doubt be a tenacious and memorable addition to the Black Widow movie. She'll next be seen in Hereditary director Ari Aster's new horror movie Midsommar, released this August.