The Black Widow Movie That Almost Happened

Gwynne Watkins
Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow in 2012’s ‘The Avengers’

We knew that a Black Widow movie was long overdue; we just didn’t know how overdue until now. According to Comic Book Resources, a movie featuring superhero spy Natasha Romanova was in development at Lionsgate in 2004 – five years before Scarlett Johansson (above) signed on to play the role in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. The proposed film had a screenplay by David Hayter, writer of X-Men and X2, who was also set to direct. And then the studio pulled the plug.

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What happened? The same thing that has happened time and again: Hollywood execs decided that a female hero was just too risky. Here’s how Hayter told the story to CBR a few years back: “Unfortunately, as I was coming up on the final draft, a number of female vigilante movies came out. We had Tomb Raider and Kill Bill, which were the ones that worked, but then we had Blood Rayne and Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux. Aeon Flux didn’t open well, and three days after it opened, the studio said, ‘We don’t think it’s time to do this movie.’”

Ah, the “not the right time” excuse. Why does that sound familiar? Oh, right – because that’s the explanation Marvel is now offering, ten years later, about why there hasn’t been a female-led superhero movie.

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Where female superheroes are faring better right now is on television: The Captain America spin-off Agent Carter will soon premiere on ABC, Supergirl will air on CBS, and Jessica Jones is being developed for Netflix. Interestingly, a Black Widow television series was also in the works at one point, starring David Bowie’s then-wife Angela. According to CBR, Angela Bowie acquired the temporary rights to Daredevil and Black Widow from Stan Lee in 1975, with the intention of bringing the Marvel characters to TV. “Unfortunately, at that time it was considered too difficult and expensive to film, special effects, etc.,” Bowie told Daredevil fan site Man Without Fear. All that remains of the would-be show are a few remarkable publicity shots of Bowie (below) and late actor Benny Carruthers (Shadows) in their superhero attire.

Angela Bowie as Black Widow
Angela Bowie as Black Widow

Angela Bowie and Benny Carruthers in a publicity shot for a proposed TV series (1975)

The current Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, made her first big-screen appearance in Iron Man 2, and has since made appearances in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and will be featured in the upcoming Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. Marvel has announced no plans for a Black Widow solo movie.

Photo credits: Everett Collection, Terry O’Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images