In the alternate worlds of Fringe or Devs, you’d not have passed a bus stop or billboard last year that didn’t advertise a little upcoming movie called Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of over a decade’s worth of cinematic Marvel storytelling that brought together the original MCU Avengers for one final battle against Thanos. Of course, we would lose two of our major players during the events that unfolded, including Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, and Emily Blunt’s Black Widow, who sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone on Vormir.
Yes, originally Blunt was director Jon Favreau’s first choice for the role of Natasha Romanoff in 2010’s Iron Man 2, but due to a scheduling conflict with Fox, she had to pull out to star alongside Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travels. The studio had tied the actress to an additional future project after she’d signed up for The Devil Wears Prada, and Blunt had no choice but to leave the role of Black Widow behind.
“Usually the female parts in a superhero film feel thankless: She’s the pill girlfriend while the guys are whizzing around saving the world,” Blunt told Vulture in 2012 when she was quizzed about having to ditch her designs on Black Widow. “I didn’t do the other ones because the part wasn’t very good or the timing wasn’t right, but I’m open to any kind of genre if the part is great and fun and different and a challenge in some way. I would love to do a comic-book movie or a science-fiction film that would scare the bejesus out of me.”
For what it’s worth, Blunt got her wish: she’d start filming in England on Doug Liman’s cult classic Edge of Tomorrow within mere months.
Meanwhile, Favreau, suddenly without a Black Widow for Iron Man 2, returned to Lost in Translation star Scarlett Johansson, who had screen-tested for the role, but hadn’t felt right for it at the time. The actress recently told Parade that the audition had gone wonderfully, but recalls telling the director “‘If this doesn’t work out, I’m an actor for hire, so call me anytime.’” That he did was a blessing, she says. “The best call you can receive is after you are rejected for something and then you get it. You appreciate it more. I’ve basically made a career out of being second choice.”
But for a while, the actress didn’t even know whether her version of Black Widow would work out.
“When we did Iron Man , I didn’t know if the audience would like my interpretation of the character,” she said, noting that everything clicked during production on Joss Whedon‘s first Avengers film in 2012, and the first 360 shot of the team together fighting in NYC sealed the deal. “It’s the iconic hero shot. We were all thinking, This is crazy! because these worlds were coming together. We’re still processing how much of an impact these movies have had.”
It took a long time for Marvel to start working on a solo movie for Johansson’s Widow, and it’s a project that has faced the biggest box office obstacle yet, with its release date already pushed back in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film, which takes place before Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, will see Natasha go back to her roots and tangle with the villainous Taskmaster, who can mimic the skills of super-powered individuals he comes into contact with.
“It’s a film very much about self-forgiveness and accepting decisions that were made for you,” Johansson says of the upcoming movie. “It’s much deeper than anything we could have done earlier.”
Black Widow is now currently eyeing a November 6 release date.