But like any good secret agent, Johansson got sucked back into the game – again, very happily – for her own solo project “Black Widow” (in theaters May 1, 2020). Directed by Cate Shortland (“Lore”), the movie kicks off Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and had a prime-time spot Saturday at Marvel's San Diego Comic-Con presentation.
Now filming in London, "Black Widow" is “a mature step” in the growing universe, Johansson tells USA TODAY. “Even though there's a lot of different elements in some facets of the character to explore, I was happy with the work that I did. The only reason to do this film is really to elevate the genre in a way. It feels like the right time.”
Marvel showed a spy-tinged "Black Widow" trailer to the Comic-Con crowd that offered a glimpse at the ballet company/Black Widow program that trained Russian girls to be super-assassins, a "John Wick"-esque fight between Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and her "sister" Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) that involves guns, knives and a shower curtain, and a throwdown between Natasha and debuting supervillain Taskmaster.
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"It's a remarkable, unique story," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says of “Black Widow,” which is set after the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” "People think they know everything there is to know about Black Widow. I promise you they do not. We tapped into a period in her life that we've never explored before and how that affects her going forward."
So far, those fights with Johansson have been "just amazing moments that I'll think back to for the rest of my life," says Pugh, who later noted that her favorite Yelena character quirk is "how she does two ponytails instead of one."
Rachel Weisz’s Melina has cycled through the Red Room program five times and is quite formidable herself. "No shower curtains but l have 'widow bites' and lots of action scenes," Weisz says.
"Black Widow" features "three really complicated, powerful but vulnerable female characters. I can't think of any action movie that is like that," Weisz adds. "So I would say it's completely new."
"Stranger Things" star David Harbour plays Alexei, aka Red Guardian, the Soviets’ answer to Captain America developed during the Cold War. "In your cliché mind, you go like, ‘Oh, this is what it's going to be. ‘And it's like, 'No, it's surprise, surprise, surprise.' He will surprise you," says Harbour, who wore a Cap T-shirt for the occasion.
And Mason, played by O-T Fagbenle (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), is a "fixer" of sorts with “the ability to get things spies and superheroes might find hard to get otherwise,” the British actor says. He also teases an “interesting romantic conflict” between Mason and Natasha: "Sometimes you want things that aren't practical, and your heart and the nature of your life doesn't necessarily coalesce to provide that kind of connection."
Johansson had been talking about and developing a “Black Widow” movie with Feige for eight years and thinks the timing couldn’t be better for her, personally.
“This incarnation of Natasha, in all of her sort of strength and her vulnerability and the strengths she finds in her own vulnerability, is something that I don't think I could have done 10 years ago," Johansson says.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Black Widow' at Comic-Con: Scarlett Johansson goes solo for Marvel