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Black Widow (2021 film)

Upcoming superhero film produced by Marvel Studios

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Black Widow
Teaser poster
Directed byCate Shortland
Produced byKevin Feige
Screenplay byEric Pearson
Story by
Based on
Starring
Music byLorne Balfe
CinematographyGabriel Beristain
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
  • July 9, 2021 (2021-07-09) (United States)
Running time
133 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$200 million+[2]

Black Widow is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is intended to be the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson from a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson, and stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow alongside Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz. Set after Captain America: Civil War (2016), the film sees Romanoff on the run and forced to confront her past.

Development of a Black Widow film began in April 2004 by Lionsgate, with David Hayter attached to write and direct. The project did not move forward and the film rights to the character reverted to Marvel Studios by June 2006. Johansson was cast in the role for several MCU films beginning with Iron Man 2 (2010). Marvel and Johansson expressed interest in a solo film several times over the following years, before Schaeffer and Shortland were hired in 2018. Benson and Pearson were added later. Filming took place from May to October, in Norway, Budapest, Morocco, Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom, and in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia.

Black Widow is scheduled to be released in the United States on July 9, 2021, simultaneously in theaters and through Disney+ with Premier Access. It will be the first film in Phase Four of the MCU, and was delayed three times from an original May 2020 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Black Widow (2021 film) Intro articles: 24

Premise

Following the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016),[3] Natasha Romanoff finds herself alone and forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Romanoff must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.[4][5]

Overview of "Avengers (comics)" article

Cast

Feige, Shortland, and the main cast of Black Widow at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

Additionally, Olivier Richters has been cast in an undisclosed role.[25] The character Taskmaster, who has taken over the Red Room, will also be featured in the film. The character studies his opponents' fighting style in order to mimic them and learn how to use it against them,[26] and uses techniques from other superheroes in the film, such as Iron Man, Captain America, Winter Soldier and Spider-Man.[27] Robert Downey Jr. will appear in his MCU role as Tony Stark / Iron Man.[28]

Black Widow (2021 film) Cast articles: 6

Production

Development

"What I tried to do was use the backdrop of the splintered Soviet Empire—a lawless insane asylum with 400-some odd nuclear missile silos. It was all about loose nukes, and I felt it was very timely and very cool. Unfortunately, as I was coming up on the final draft, a number of female vigilante movies came out. We had Tomb Raider and Kill Bill, which were the ones that worked, but then we had BloodRayne and Ultraviolet and Æon Flux. Æon Flux didn't open well, and three days after it opened, the studio said, 'We don't think it's time to do this movie.'"

—David Hayter on his version of the script and why that project failed to move forward[29]

In February 2004, Lionsgate acquired the film rights for Black Widow,[30] and in April announced David Hayter as writer and director of the film, with Marvel Studios' Avi Arad producing.[31] By June 2006, Lionsgate had dropped the project and the rights reverted to Marvel Studios. Hayter and Marvel tried getting another financier to develop the project, but Hayter "never felt comfortable that we had found a place that was willing to take the movie, and the character, seriously". This left Hayter "heartbroken", but he hoped the film would be made "some day".[32]

Marvel entered early talks with Emily Blunt to play Black Widow in Iron Man 2 (2010) in January 2009,[33] but she was unable to take the role due to a previous commitment to star in Gulliver's Travels (2010).[34] In March 2009, Scarlett Johansson signed on to play Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, with her deal including options for multiple films.[35] In September 2010, while promoting the home media release of Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige stated that discussions with Johansson had already taken place regarding a Black Widow standalone film, but that Marvel's focus was on The Avengers (2012).[36] Johansson reprised her role in that film,[37] as well as in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014),[38] Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015),[39] Captain America: Civil War (2016),[40] Avengers: Infinity War (2018),[41] and Avengers: Endgame (2019).[42] After the release of Age of Ultron, Johansson revealed that the number of films on her contract had been adjusted since she first signed to match the "demand of the character", as Marvel had not anticipated the audience's "great reaction" to the character and her performance.[43]

In February 2014, Feige said that after exploring Black Widow's past in Age of Ultron, he would like to see it explored further in a solo film, which already had development work done for it,[44] including a "pretty in depth" treatment by Nicole Perlman, who co-wrote Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).[45] The following April, Johansson expressed interest in starring in a Black Widow film, and said that it would be driven by demand from the audience.[46] That July, Hayter expressed interest in reviving the project for Marvel,[47] and the following month, director Neil Marshall said that he "would love to do a Black Widow film", saying he felt the character was "really interesting [given] she doesn't have any superpowers, she just has extraordinary skills, and the world that she comes from, being this ex-K.G.B. assassin, I find that really fascinating".[48] In April 2015, Johansson spoke more on the possibility of a solo Black Widow film, seeing the potential to explore the character's different layers as depicted in her previous appearances. However, she felt that the character was being "used well in this part of the universe" at that time.[43] While promoting Civil War the next April, Feige noted that due to the announced schedule of films, any potential Black Widow film would be four or five years away.[49] He added that Marvel was "creatively and emotionally" committed to making a Black Widow film eventually.[50]

Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, said in July 2016 that he was open to directing a Black Widow film, feeling he could make "a spy thriller. Like really do a good, paranoid, 'John le Carré on crack' sort of thing."[51] In October, Johansson discussed the potential film being a prequel, saying, "you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program. There's all kinds of stuff that you could do with it." She did caution she may not want to "wear a skin-tight catsuit" for much longer.[52] The next February, Johansson said that she would dedicate herself to making any potential Black Widow film "amazing. It would have to be the best version that movie could possibly be. Otherwise, I would never do it ... [it would] have to be its own standalone and its own style and its own story."[53] Due to the development work already done, and the public support for a Black Widow film, Marvel ultimately decided that the best time to move forward with the project would be at the beginning of the "latest phase" of the MCU in 2020.[10]

Feige met with Johansson to discuss the direction of a solo film in October 2017, before Marvel began meeting with writers for the project, including Jac Schaeffer.[54] Schaeffer met with Feige again in December, and was hired to write the screenplay by the end of 2017.[55][56] Schaeffer and Johansson were set to discuss the direction of the film at the beginning of February 2018.[57] Marvel began meeting with female directors to potentially take on the project, part of a priority push by major film studios to hire female directors for franchises.[58] By the end of April, the studio had met with over 65 directors for the project in an "extremely thorough" search,[59] including Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Chloé Zhao—who went on to direct Marvel's Eternals (2021)[60]Amma Asante,[58] and Lynn Shelton.[61] Lucrecia Martel was also approached, but was discouraged when told she would not have to "worry about the action scenes". She also felt the music and visual effects of Marvel films were "horrible" and wanted to change the approach to these.[62] In the following months, a shortlist of 49 directors was made before the top choices of Cate Shortland, Asante, and Maggie Betts met with Feige and Johansson in June.[63] Mélanie Laurent and Kimberly Peirce were also in the "next-to-final mix".[64][6] Shortland had the support of Johansson, a fan of the director's previous female-starring film Lore (2012), and was hired in July.[6]

The Hollywood Reporter reported in October 2018 that Johansson would earn $15 million for the film, an increase from the "low-seven figure salary" that she earned for starring in The Avengers. $15 million is what Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth each earned for the third films in their MCU franchises—Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), respectively. The pair also earned that amount for co-starring in Infinity War and Endgame. Despite The Hollywood Reporter confirming these amounts with "multiple knowledgeable sources" for their report, Marvel Studios disputed the accuracy of the numbers and said that they "never publicly disclose salaries or deal terms".[65]

Pre-production

In February 2019, Ned Benson was hired to rewrite the script,[66] and Feige confirmed that, despite rumors, the studio did not want the film to receive an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.[67] The following month, Florence Pugh entered negotiations to join the cast as a spy who is "morally opposite" to Romanoff.[68] Marvel had been considering Pugh for the role since late 2018, but began looking at other actresses, including Saoirse Ronan, in early 2019.[10][69] The studio returned to Pugh after she received strong reviews for her performance in the film Fighting with My Family (2019).[10] In April 2019, Pugh was confirmed to have been cast alongside David Harbour,[15] Rachel Weisz,[22][18] and O-T Fagbenle.[18] Shortland said the film would not be an origin story despite being a prequel to Infinity War and Endgame, as Feige felt that would be expected of a prequel and decided to move in the "opposite direction" of that idea.[12] Feige likened the film to the television series Better Call Saul, which is a prequel to the series Breaking Bad, because it was "a wonderful example of a prequel that almost completely stands on its own... [but] it informs you about so many things you didn't know about before".[70] Shortland acknowledged Romanoff's death in Endgame and the fact that some fans were upset she did not receive a funeral in that film, but said the character was private and did not know many people so she would not have wanted a funeral. However, Black Widow allowed the ending "to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring".[12]

Filming

Principal photography began on May 28, 2019, in Norway.[71] Shortland wanted the film to have "peril at its heart" and be "really emotional but also story-driven". She took inspiration from How to Train Your Dragon (2010).[17]:63 Early reports suggested that Rob Hardy would be the film's cinematographer, but he left the production before filming began. Gabriel Beristain served as cinematographer instead.[72] The production moved to Pinewood Studios in London in early June,[73] with Ray Winstone joining the cast later that month.[21]

Shooting took place in mid-July at Hankley Common in Surrey, England, under the working title Blue Bayou. The site was made to look like a Russian farmstead, with helicopter and plane crash sites. The Thursley Parish Council objected to this filming, as it had occurred while Marvel Studios' application to use the site was still pending. The production planned to revisit the site in late August 2019 for further filming.[74] The film was officially announced at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con later in July, with a release date of May 1, 2020, revealed alongside roles for some of the new cast members.[9] In August, bodybuilder Olivier Richters announced that he had been cast in the film.[25] The next month, Deadline Hollywood reported that Robert Downey Jr. would appear in the film in his MCU role as Tony Stark / Iron Man.[28]

A wrap party for the film was held at the end of September, before production moved to Macon, Georgia for the week of September 30. Filming locations in Macon, including Terminal Station, were dressed to portray Albany, New York.[75] Set photos in October revealed that William Hurt would appear in the film, reprising his MCU role as Thaddeus Ross.[20] Filming also took place in Atlanta, Budapest, and Morocco.[76] The production officially wrapped on October 6, 2019.[77]

Post-production

In January 2020, a special look trailer credited Eric Pearson as the screenwriter for the film, with Schaeffer and Benson receiving story credit.[78] Additionally, Jeff Sneider of Collider pointed out that the trailer's credit block did not include a cinematographer for the film. He wondered if contractual obstacles were to blame for Marvel not crediting Beristain at that point, and felt that he would be credited in marketing materials leading up to the film's release.[72] In mid-March, Disney removed the film from its release schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[79] In early April, Disney announced that Black Widow would now be released on November 6, 2020, and the rest of their Phase Four slate of films were shifted to accommodate this change.[80] In September 2020, Disney pushed the release back again to May 7, 2021,[81] followed by a third shift in March 2021 to July 9, 2021.[82]

Black Widow (2021 film) Production articles: 48

Music

Alexandre Desplat was revealed to be composing the music for the film in January 2020.[83] Late in post-production, Lorne Balfe replaced Desplat as composer, which Desplat confirmed in May 2020.[84][85]

Black Widow (2021 film) Music articles: 2

Marketing

With the film's official announcement at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, it was promoted by Feige, Shortland, and cast members who introduced footage from the first 30 days of production.[9] A teaser trailer for the film, featuring some of the footage that was shown at Comic-Con, was released on December 3, 2019.[86][87] Several commentators noted that the film was "long awaited" or "highly anticipated" by fans,[86][87][88] and highlighted the teaser's spy thriller tone.[89][90] Rachel Leishman of The Mary Sue described finally seeing the trailer for a Black Widow film as "surprisingly emotional", and felt that setting the film between Civil War and Infinity War would allow the character to grow into her more mature form from the latter film, after earlier MCU films had depicted the character in a supporting role to the male Avengers.[88] Scott Mendelson of Forbes compared the trailer's story and tone to the films Atomic Blonde (2017), Red Sparrow (2018), and Anna (2019), but felt that starring a familiar character would give Black Widow a commercial advantage over those films. Mendelson thought that this aspect could outweigh the teaser's focus on "family melodrama" over superheroics, which he compared to Marvel's Thor (2011).[90] The Hollywood Reporter's Richard Newby highlighted what he found to be noticeable differences between Shortland's shot composition and cinematography in the trailer from the styles of Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, all directors who helped to define Black Widow in previous MCU films.[91]

A final trailer before the film's original May 2020 release date debuted on March 9, 2020. Nicole Carpenter of Polygon said it was the most in-depth look at the film yet,[92] with Josh Weiss of SyFy Wire enjoying its quieter moments in addition to the expected action sequences.[93] Mendelson found the trailer to be an improvement over the teaser, attributing this to the appearance of multiple Black Widow characters which he said "keeps the stakes somewhat grounded and presumably ties into the film's notion of found families (the Avengers), forced families (the fellow brainwashed murderers) and actual family (co-stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz)".[94] In September 2020, Barbie released two Black Widow dolls featuring the outfits worn by Romanoff in the film.[95] Marvel released a new trailer for the film on April 3, 2021. Austen Goslin at Polygon said since it only had a few new scenes, it was an attempt from Marvel to seemingly not reveal much more of the plot. He also said the trailer provided the "best look yet" of Taskmaster and ended with "a fantastic new Russian-inspired version" of The Avengers theme.[96] Compared to the previous final trailer in March 2020, Germain Lussier of io9 said this trailer "feels much more epic" with its use of past film footage, flashback moments of Natasha and her family, or the use of The Avengers theme, and was "a trailer that gets you excited for the return" of the MCU films.[97] Ethan Anderton of /Film said the free-falling fight with Taskmaster showcased in the trailer "looks like a sequence unlike any other" seen in the MCU, calling it "epic".[98]

Black Widow (2021 film) Marketing articles: 12

Release

Black Widow is scheduled to be released in the United States on July 9, 2021, simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access for US$30.[82] The film's theatrical release will include IMAX screenings.[99] It will be the first film released in Phase Four of the MCU.[100][81]

The film was originally scheduled to be released on May 1, 2020.[9] In early March 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic had caused the closure of theaters in many countries, the release date for the film No Time to Die was shifted from April 2020 to November 2020. Commentators began speculating about the potential for other major films like Black Widow to be postponed as well. Deadline Hollywood reported on rumors in the film distribution industry suggesting that Black Widow would take the November release date of Marvel's Eternals, with the latter being delayed until 2021, but Disney confirmed then that it still intended to release Black Widow in May 2020.[101] After a final trailer was released for the film a week later, Scott Mendelson at Forbes highlighted how the trailer's existence and use of the May 2020 release date confirmed that the film was not being delayed. He said this was "the logical choice at this juncture", feeling this was the ideal release date for the film and there was no evidence that the pandemic would affect its performance in the U.S.[94] A week after that, theaters across the U.S. had been closed due to the spreading pandemic, with gatherings larger than 50 people being discouraged by the CDC; Disney removed the film from its May release date.[79] Adam B. Vary and Matt Donnelly at Variety questioned whether the MCU could be impacted more by the delay than other popular franchises due to the interconnected nature of the series, though a Marvel Studios source told them that changing the film's release date would not affect the MCU timeline. The pair speculated that this was due to the film being a prequel set earlier in the timeline than other Phase Four films.[102] In April, Disney changed its entire Phase Four release slate due to the pandemic, giving Eternals' November 6, 2020, release date to Black Widow and shifting all of its other Phase Four films back in the release schedule to accommodate this.[80]

Anthony D'Alessandro of Deadline Hollywood reported in September 2020 that Disney was considering rescheduling Black Widow again,[103] with Variety also reporting this and attributing it to the low box office returns for Disney's Mulan in China and Warner Bros.' Tenet in North America.[104] Later that month, Disney pushed back the release to May 7, 2021, rescheduling Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) as a result.[81] In January 2021, Feige said he still expected Black Widow to debut in theaters,[105] but Variety reported that Disney was considering releasing the film on its streaming service Disney+. There was also potential to delay the film's release again if the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic did not improve leading up to the planned May 2021 release, or to release the film concurrently in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access as was done with Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon (2021). Variety felt it would be "insurmountably more challenging" for Black Widow to become profitable if it did not have a traditional theatrical release.[106][107] In early February, Disney CEO Bob Chapek reaffirmed that Black Widow was intended to be solely released in theaters, but Disney was cognizant of theaters reopening, particularly in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, as well as consumer desire to return to theaters.[108] According to Variety, Feige was opposed to a hybrid release for the film.[2] If the film was delayed again, the film distribution industry believed Disney would move it to July 9, 2021, which at that time was the release date for Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings.[109] The next month, Chapek reiterated that Disney planned to release Black Widow in theaters on May 7,[110] while Deadline Hollywood again noted that delaying the film, releasing it simultaneously on Disney+, or releasing it in theaters for a short time before making it available on Disney+ were all still possibilities.[110] Chapek soon stated that Disney was remaining flexible as they gauged consumer behavior, and they would make a final decision on releasing the film at the "last minute".[111]

In late March, Disney moved the film's release date to July 9, 2021, and announced that it would release simultaneously on Disney+ with Premier Access. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was delayed again as a result. Kareem Daniel, the chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, said the simultaneous release gave fans options to see the film while serving the "evolving preferences of audiences".[82] Chaim Gartenberg at The Verge opined that Disney had to move forward with a simultaneous release for the film because they could not afford to delay Marvel's Phase Four television series. He explained that those series were some of the few "high-profile, must-watch shows" on Disney+, and once they began releasing with WandaVision in January 2021 there was only so much time that the films could be delayed before the interconnected nature of Marvel's storytelling began causing issues. For instance, the series Hawkeye was expected to release later in 2021 and contain spoilers for Black Widow, so the film needed to be released before then. Gartenberg described Disney and Marvel as being victims of their own success, but felt the potential revenue loss from the simultaneous release could lead to long-term positives such as fans who otherwise would not have watched Marvel's series potentially discovering them when signing up to Disney+ to watch Black Widow.[112]

Black Widow (2021 film) Release articles: 16

Documentary special

In February 2021, the documentary series Marvel Studios: Assembled was announced. The specials go behind the scenes of the making of the MCU films and television series with cast members and additional creatives. A special for Black Widow, featuring Johansson, is intended to release on Disney+ shortly after the film's theatrical release.[113]

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