The Golden Globe winner, 36, joined the MCU in 2010’s Iron Man 2. Looking back at the film now, Johansson thinks it may have missed the mark when it comes to depicting strong women.
“I have a much different, more evolved understanding of myself … as a woman, I’m in a different place in my life,” she told reporters including Hello Beautiful ahead of the premiere of the stand-alone Black Widow movie, which hits theaters in July. “I felt more forgiving of myself, as a woman. … All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character and, I mean, you look back at Iron Man 2 and while it was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualized, you know?”
Black Widow (a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff) was “really talked about” by male characters as if she were “a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass,” Johansson recalled. “Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean? Because my thinking was different. … Now people, young girls, are getting a much more positive message.”
The Marriage Story star said it’s “been incredible to be a part of that shift” toward a more empowering portrayal of female superheroes — but it wasn’t easy to get there. “It was never really clear what the space for it was,” she told Collider. “This movie would have been so different if we’d made it 10 years ago. It was a different time. … [But it’s] better late than never.”
In the upcoming summer blockbuster, Johansson plays the titular character, who finds herself forced to revisit her past as a KGB spy. Florence Pugh costars as Yelena Belova, a sister-like character who trained alongside Natasha. Director Cate Shortland was excited to see the Oscar nominee “pass the baton” to Pugh, 25.
“We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great,” Shortland told Empire of the Little Women actress in June 2020, celebrating the chance to “propel another female story line” in a male-driven space.
Pugh, for her part, felt grateful to be part of a project that didn’t shy away from showing dynamic women on screen.
“There’s so much love and so much, like, fighting and hate and anger but love,” she told Entertainment Tonight of Natasha and Yelena on Tuesday, June 15. “And they come back together all the time. It’s pretty cool to have these strong women basically fight everything together.”
Even Black Widow’s costume and style have transformed since her MCU debut. When asked what she related to most about her character, Pugh teased, “Hairstyle, mostly. I love the two ponytails.”
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