Actress Scarlett Johansson may be best known for her dramatic work in independent films such as “Lost in Translation” and “Match Point,” but she’s also appeared in several movie adaptations of comic books including “Ghost World” and the Frank Miller-directed film “The Spirit.” However, it’s her upcoming performance as Marvel Comics’ Black Widow in next summer’s “Iron Man 2” that has fanboys talking.
Johansson will play Natasha Romanoff, better known to fans as the Black Widow, a Russian born super-spy who eventually defects to the U.S. and works for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. Originally casting actress Emily Blunt (“The Devil Wears Prada”) as Romanoff, Marvel Studios quickly brought in Johansson for the pivotal part when Blunt’s schedule would not allow her to participate in “Iron Man 2.” Fans of the property rejoiced at the announcement as it came not only with the reality of seeing the sexy Johansson in Black Widow’s catsuit, but also the confirmation that Widow will appear in a future Avengers movie, again played by Johansson.
Johansson made her first appearance ever at Comic Con International in San Diego this year, and CBR News had the chance to sit down with the actress and talk about her role in “Iron Man 2.” She spoke candidly about the new film, how she got the role of the Black Widow, other Marvel characters that she considered playing, and the recent abundance of costumed heroes in her household.
CBR: Scarlett, this year marked your first visit to Comic-Con. What was that like for you?
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: It was incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like that before and certainly I’ve never experienced anything like that two weeks after filming is wrapped. So it’s exciting to be part of something that has this built in fan base that has this electricity around it.
What did you think when you first saw the footage of yourself in “Iron Man 2?”
It was crazy to see it for the first time. I mean everything all zipped up, all the weapons in there, the bracelets on and the whole look. It was pretty sweet, I have to say. And certainly walking on set, because a lot of the people that worked on the film are fans of the comic, of course they know the Black Widow and they’re all super excited to see the Black Widow. When everybody on the crew was like, “That looks awesome,” I knew we were okay.
From the clips that were shown at CCI, it looks like you had a lot of physical work to do in the film.
I kick some major butt, is that what you’re trying to say? It was just many, many hours, days and months of stunt training and strength training. But its fun because I had a goal and the goal was [getting into] the cat suit.
Now that you’ve seen some of the footage, are you happy with way you look in the cat suit?
Finally I was, yes, I have to say. You put that much work into something then you put it on and you better be happy with it
How did you end up getting the role of Black Widow in “Iron Man 2?”
I actually met with [director] Jon [Favreau] and [Marvel Studios executive] Kevin Feige a year before pre-production started. We just talked about some of the super heroines in the Marvel Universe and one of them was Black Widow. I think they were kind of toying with the idea of putting the character into the film and how they would work it in and all that. When I met Jon the second time I had red hair and a part of that, I think, was me wanting to experiment with my hair color and the other part of that was me kind of hoping that Jon would like the fact that I was experimenting.
When you first met with Favreau and Feige, were there other Marvel characters that they were considering you for or did you know they wanted you to play Black Widow?
I think that it was mostly [Black Widow]. I mean, there were different characters like Moonstone, the Scarlet Witch and the Blonde Phantom? There were a couple that I looked through and thought, “Okay these are the kind of characters that could maybe work somewhere.”
Were you familiar with the character of Black Widow before you were cast or did you have to do a lot of research for the part?
I wasn’t really familiar. I was familiar with the character as far as I kind of researched different super-heroines but I didn’t know that much about the character’s background. Only that she’s kind of the oldest of the super-heroines, has an incredible fanbase and has had many incarnations. So I think that the research that I did was mostly a lot of the stunt work that I put into it. The character herself I think remains quite mysterious, which is important because she is covert and she is on a search.
Was the superhero genre something that you had wanted to do for a while?
I had never really thought about it before. Honestly, I have to say that before I saw the first “Iron Man” movie I never really thought much about playing a superhero. Certainly there is a major geek within me and actually kind of just right on the surface. But I didn’t really, I think, because when I saw the first one it was because my Mom called me and said, “Did you see ‘Iron Man?’” I was like, “’Iron Man?’ I mean I would see it but it’s not really my kind of thing.” But I thought if my Mom’s telling me to see “Iron Man” than it’s got to be great because my Mom’s not a comic book fan. When I went to see it I was just so blown away. I’d never seen anything like that before in the genre.
Was it intimidating at all to play a superhero on the big screen?
I have to say that I was really able to work with an incredibly supportive group of people and that helped with any nerves that I might have had. It was a lot of work you know. It’s a lot of work because you want to buy it, you want to buy that the character is able to kick some major ass.
Do you connect or identify with the Black Widow?
I think the character is a shape-shifter so it was kind of like playing two different characters. One character is more mysterious and -- I don’t want to say submissive but she’s kind of blending in with the crowd, I suppose you could say. The other part of this character is someone who knows their shit and is able to say, “I’m going to fight this head on.” So for me it was being able to have that kind of feeling, being confidant enough to sell it, like this is somebody that’s going to kick some ass and don’t for a second doubt that she’s going to follow through with the punch. It was a challenge for me but Jon was incredible. He really, really supported me with that.
Was there any aspect of shooting the film that really surprised you?
Everything was surprising to me when I was making this movie because I was such a fan of the first one so I kind of went in a bit geeked out by the movie to begin with. I think just to see that eighty percent of the crew came back for the second time, I was really surprised to find that this movie that seemed kind of larger than life had such a small sort of familial feeling on set. Even though we were making this huge movie we had Kevin Feige there everyday and it felt like the whole studio was behind the movie in a really supportive nurturing way.
Is the plan that if this film does well, Black Widow would get her own movie spin-off?
I hope so. I think it all depends on how the fans react to the character. I hope that people like the character of course because I love the character. You’ll have to ask Kevin Feige that. But I hope that she does turn up, if not in her own movie in a future series then perhaps in the next film.
Finally, both you and your husband Ryan Reynolds have been cast in major franchises as costumed superheroes, Black Widow and Green Lantern, respectively. Is your home just filled with comic books right now?
I have quite a few stacks of comic books. You know, we’re in completely different comic book universes but it’s something that I’m certainly delving into for the first time and there’s quite a stack.
“Iron Man 2” flies into theatres in May 2010.