'Probably biased' | 

Hollywood heroine Scarlett Johansson admits Black Widow is 'the most badass superhero'

Ahead of the release of Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson reveals viewers will get to know another side of the kickass heroine

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow. Photo: Film Frame

Esther McCarthy

She's already one of the world's biggest movie stars - now Scarlett Johansson proves her mettle as an action heroine as the Black Widow gets her first standalone outing.

Featuring shoot-outs, motorcycle stunts, an audacious helicopter rescue attempt and a face-off with a tank, Scarlett goes full Jason Bourne in her new Black Widow movie.

It's proof that the superhero - who originally worked as Russian KGB agent Natasha Romanoff before joining the Avengers - always had the potential to go bigger and bolder. And the US actress relishes the opportunity to up the ante.

"I think from the very beginning when we first started talking about doing this standalone film, there was no reason to do it unless we could really dig deep and be brave and go there," she says.

"Having played this character for a decade, I wanted to make sure that it would feel artistically and creatively rewarding for me as well as the fans."

Black Widow steps out from the shadow of her fellow superheroes like Iron Man and The Hulk in the thriller, aided and abetted by a strong supporting role from Florence Pugh. The British actress is set to be a hit with fans as new Marvel character Yelena, a sister-like figure from Natasha's childhood, who trained with her in secret spy camp the Red Room.

It means we get to know more about Natasha's past in the movie, which has been well received by critics. But then, we should expect no less from Scarlett, who has rarely put a foot wrong since first emerging on our scenes at the tender age of 13.

She survived the potential perils of child stardom when she made her breakthrough in The Horse Whisperer in 1998. She'd already been working as a child star off-Broadway and in smaller film roles such as the indie hit Manny & Lo. But it was her strong performance opposite none less than Robert Redford that grabbed Hollywood's attention. Richard LaGravanese, who co-wrote the screenplay, said Johansson "brought a heartache to the part that seemed to come from experience beyond her years".

Scarlett Johansson with Florence Pugh who plays Yelena Belova

The emotional drama saw her play Grace, who is traumatised when her leg is amputated following a riding accident with her horse, Pilgrim.

Following a starring role in the teen comedy Ghost World, she made a smooth transition to more grown-up roles with Lost in Translation. The movie with Bill Murray was a hit and landed her a Bafta for best actress.

The young star was on a roll, following through with Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Prestige. She even had chart success, releasing two music albums in 2008 and 2009.

Since Johansson made her Marvel debut in Iron Man 2, she has mixed those high-profile films with edgy sci-fi movies like Her and Under the Skin. By 2019, she was on the awards-season circuit for two movies: the emotional romance Marriage Story and Second World War satire Jojo Rabbit. Johansson is well aware of her star power. In 2018 and 2019 she was the world's highest-paid actress and has featured several times on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list. Her films - bolstered by Marvel's global popularity - have taken in over $14.3 billion at the box office, making her the highest-grossing actress of all time.

She was also heavily involved in the Black Widow standalone, persuading Australian director Cate Shortland to get onboard. Shortland says: "I think what's exciting about the film is we're playing with the audience's expectations.

"We're exploring parts of Natasha that the audience has absolutely no idea about. We explore her family, love and passion, and you get to see all these facets of her we have never seen before."

Florence Pugh stars alongside Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow, the latest blockbuster from Marvel (Disney/PA)

Production for the spy thriller kicked off in summer 2019, shooting on three continents over 87 days including the UK, Norway, Budapest, Morocco and Atlanta.

Scarlett says she had a clear vision for the movie. "When you see Natasha in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), she's often this kind of impenetrable force.

"She's reckless and out of control but still has this amazing intellect. What are her secrets? Her vulnerabilities? I am excited to share her fragility and her strength.

"She is in a male world and she projects a certain way of being in that world. What we wanted to do is find out who is the real Black Widow.

Scarlett Johansson with Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer

"I know a lot about this character, because she's in me. But I haven't really had the opportunity to access all the parts of her. Cate loves the idea of going inside this character. I've been able to make a lot of discoveries about her, to find different strengths and different flaws.

"It's been pretty therapeutic. I can't imagine that many actors have the opportunity to do that with a character they've played for 10 years."

She adds: "I'm probably biased, but I think there are some of the best fights we've had in the MCU."

She relished the opportunity to get into top shape and train in stonework and various fighting and combat skills.

"It was striking how many stuntwomen we had on set at any given time," says Scarlett. "The power of these women in one room together was something I'd never experienced before. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by all these badass women and be able to get down and dirty with them. It was great."

Black Widow is released in cinemas on July 7 and on Disney+ with premier access on July 9

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