‘Black Widow’ director reveals the movie’s hilarious secret weapon

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At the start of the pandemic, Black Widow Director Cate Shortland was stranded in Los Angeles with a finished film. Or at least almost finished.

In March of last year, with Marvel setting a May 1 release date, there was no time to waste, and Shortland was working tirelessly to get Black Widow ready. Then the world went into lockdown. Previously director of fine art photos like those of 2004 Perilous leap, 2012 Traditions, and 2017 Berlin Syndrome, Shortland found herself in quarantine with what could have been the biggest popcorn movie of 2020.

“It was like the movie never happened,” says Shortland Reverse. “I was in LA with my family on lockdown. It was really strange. We were like everyone else, every day, looking at the numbers. “

Finally, with Black Widow in theaters this week, Shortland’s work can be seen on the big screen (or on Disney +, if occupying an enclosed space with strangers still makes you nauseous). As the first film in Marvel’s Next Step, post-Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson in her eighth and possibly final performance as Natasha Romanoff, herself a recurring summer box office figure since her first appearance 11 years ago in The Iron Man 2.

Although Natasha sacrificed herself to help the Avengers in End of Game, his new solo film visits a previously unseen chapter in the life of the super spy, which takes place between the years 2016 Captain America: Civil War and 2018 Avengers: Infinity War.

When Natasha’s estranged sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) asks for help, Natasha is determined to take down the mysterious “Red Room,” a top-secret Russian operation that has resulted in Nasha and many others like her. A Marvel-ized cross between The woman Nikita and James Bond, Black Widow is a familiar sort of popcorn blockbuster – in which grain and humor are served in equal measure. But since the pandemic has kept everyone from seeing films of this size for over a year, Shortland is hoping to see Black Widow on the big screen will feel like a homecoming for moviegoers.

“I hope we see the other side of [the pandemic,]Shortland said, speaking through Zoom. “It was really strange. And it’s wonderful that you can release the movie and celebrate the fact that we can meet again. “

In an interview with Reverse, Shortland reveals how her background in independent films prepared her to step into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and how one important line defines the whole story.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Cate Shortland, behind the scenes of Black Widow.Marvel studios

You have already made films like Traditions and Berlin Syndrome, located well outside the world of superheroes. How did your experience on these films influence your time on Black Widow?

What we tried to create on set was a safe space for the actors to give as truthful a performance as possible, and so they could have fun together and improvise. Even though we had this mega team, all these tools and trucks, my time in arthouse cinema gave me this idea that you just create a really calm and safe setting and you let the actors play. .

What scenes were improvised?

The dinner scene. David [Harbour] improvise, Rachel [Weisz] improvised. Florence is. And then, inside the helicopter with David, he improvises like a demon. Anything with David Harbor in it, you can guarantee it’s improvisation.

On its surface, a Black Widow movie means doing the equivalent of James Bond for Marvel. But you seem disinterested in approaching it like a typical spy movie. What tropes or staples of the spy movie genre, if any, did you intentionally want to avoid?

What we wanted to do was look at her as an icon that everyone knows, this incredible femme fatale, and pull her off and say, “Who is this human being? What did she go through? She is alone, uncertain and vulnerable. We see it in this reconstruction process. But what she has to do is her family or her community. I was more interested in that than the idea of ​​perfection and finesse, because I think what we all crave is a little authenticity. A bit of a mess. Human disorder. Florence’s character is so messy [too], and that’s why I think people identify with her.

Rachel Weisz (left), Scarlett Johansson (center back) and Florence Pugh (right) in Black Widow.Marvel studios

An important line in Black Widow is pronounced by Yelena. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s like, “I’m not a hero little girls look up to.” Thanks to Marvel, Black Widow has become a popular and ambitious icon for young girls, who feels at odds with her origins as a skilled killer. what did you want Black Widow to say about how we pick and choose heroes?

I try to question the idea of ​​a hero or an author. Or both. Sometimes Natasha was heroic. Sometimes she was a perpetrator. I think we all have that in us, I guess. This dichotomy of good and bad. What we have to do, in a way, is what she has to do: forgive herself. She has to say, “I was part of this terrible and corrupt system, I did things and it doesn’t define me. I am more than the sum of my parts, and I will come out on the other side. I hope people, when they watch the movie, relate to it – and give themselves a break.

The Red Room is unambiguously bad in the way it exploits women and girls. How did you approach talking about this very real evil in a superhero movie?

I think this is a great time to talk about it, and making the movie now means we can explore it. The victims, Natasha and Yelena, are [even] laugh at this system because they’re not going to let it go. They question him and don’t care. What I want is for young people, especially young women or anyone who is being bullied, to raise [their] voice and say, “I’m not going to take this anymore.” The film suggests that we are stronger together. I think Marvel was good at conveying this message consistently. We couldn’t have done it at a better time.

In the film, David Harbor’s Alexei claims to have fought Captain America. But as someone else points out, that’s impossible, because Captain America was frozen in ice at the time. Is Alexei telling the truth or is he telling stories that only he believes?

This question is so big. I think both. I want to see Alexei and Captain America together. But if we saw them together now, I think we know what would happen. I don’t want to see Alexei poop in his pants. This is what would happen. You would find this little boy in the corner, crying his eyes.

I think they would be friends. Share the vodka and Sam Adams.

Maybe he would give Cap a hug. And then try to kill him.

Black Widow opens in theaters and Disney + Premier Access on July 9.


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