“We didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great,” Shortland, 51, told Empire magazine of the Marvel newbie on Monday, July 6. “Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female story line.”
Pugh, 24, joins Johansson, 35, in the upcoming standalone film for the longtime Avengers favorite, Black Widow. The Little Women star will portray Yelena Belova, a sister figure for Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. Both women were trained to be the ultimate government operatives, and after finding herself on her own in the wake of Captain America: Civil War, Romanoff is forced to confront her past and return to the place that made her who she is today.
“[Kevin Feige] realized that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction,” Shortland explained on Monday, hinting that this won’t be the last we see of Pugh’s powerhouse character. “In Endgame, the fans were upset that Natasha did not have a funeral. … So, what we did in this film was allow the ending to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring. I think that’s a fitting ending for her.”
Black Widow was slated to hit theaters in May, but the studio delayed the film’s opening in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. In April, Marvel confirmed that fans would be able to see Johansson “kick butt, reunite with her spy family, and save the day” on the big screen in November.
The New York native has been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for 10 years, but revealed earlier this year that she was originally passed up for the role in favor of Emily Blunt. Despite being the director’s second choice, Johansson has no regrets about joining the Avengers family.
“The best call you can receive is after you are rejected for something and then you get it,” she told Parade magazine in April. “You appreciate it more. I’ve basically made a career out of being second choice.”