Cate Shortland originally turned down Marvel’s offer to direct Black Widow, but Scarlett Johansson called her on Zoom to convince her to come onboard.
Scarlett Johansson had to convince Cate Shortland to come onboard as director for Black Widow. Johansson has a lot riding on the upcoming Marvel movie – not only will it be her first solo outing as the titular assassin, but it will be Natasha Romanoff‘s swan song in the MCU. After the character’s death in Avengers: Endgame, it seems like Johansson may be done with Marvel for good after over a decade of working in the MCU. Audiences had long asked for Black Widow to get her own solo feature, but the character was relegated to a supporting player for the majority of her tenure in the superhero franchise. On July 9, that all changes.
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Marvel’s big return to theaters will finally put Natasha front and center while simultaneously introducing the person who will take over the mantle of the Black Widow. Florence Pugh is set to star as Yelena Belova, a sister-like figure to Natasha and someone who also trained in the Red Room. Black Widow will cement Johansson’s legacy, as will Pugh’s future as Yelena, making it all the more important that the right person directed Black Widow. For Johansson, that person was Shortland.
Shortland told Variety that, when asked by Marvel to direct Black Widow, she told her agent to tell the studio no. The director goes on to reveal that her agent never did so.
I told my manager in L.A., ‘There’s no way I can do this movie, and I’m not sure why they’re asking me. It’s crazy, the whole endeavor.’ And then she never told them no.
Johansson, who had seen Shortland’s film Lore, was adamant that the director come onboard and although she was hard to find at first, the pair eventually had a call on Zoom.
It was very important to me that the person that directed this film had to have made a masterpiece and then some other good movies. One masterpiece, you know? And I really think ‘Lore’ is really so close to — I mean, it’s a perfect film.
Shortland and Johansson did not discuss anything to do with Black Widow, instead taking the time to get to know each other. Eventually, Shortland became sold on the idea and came onboard as director.
That Shortland needed some convincing is no surprise – the Marvel machine is likely daunting for any director, but especially for Shortland, who had yet to make a movie on this scale. Her previous films, including the aforementioned Lore, were much smaller in scale, intimate, character driven dramas. As of late, though, that’s exactly what Marvel has been looking for. Chloé Zhao, known for dramas like The Rider and Nomadland, is set to make her own Marvel debut this year with Eternals.
Luckily, by all accounts, Shortland seems to have pulled off her first blockbuster expertly. Early reviews for Black Widow have praised the film’s action sequences and character driven drama, even if they find the film lacking in some parts. Still, by all accounts, the visual aspect of the film is stunning and that’s no surprise – Marvel has become more and more willing to experiment with aesthetics as time has gone on and Black Widow may be another step in this direction, combining intimate character-driven moments with the high-octane thrills of a Marvel epic.
- Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
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