Scarlett Johansson’s first superhero franchise, “The Spirit,” ended up being a colossal dud, but in Hollywood fortunes turn on a whim. Now, Johansson’s been recruited to join the Marvel Universe as the Russian undercover agent the Black Widow and she gets to make her debut in the expected blockbuster “Iron Man 2.” The actress sat down after a spectacular public Comic-Con 2009 panel but didn’t talk about her husband Ryan Reynolds’ recent casting as rival DC Comic’s Green Lantern or the fact Emily Blunt was originally supposed to play the Widow. However, she did happen to mention some of the other Marvel characters she was approached about.
Q: Was coming to this character like entering into a whole new world?
It was all new to me. I mean I had met originally with Jon and Kevin to kind of talk to them about some of the characters in the Marvel Universe and Black Widow was one of them, but I didn’t really know anything about the character until I delved into it. Then I started looking at the suit and went ‘Oh my god.’ (Laughs.) I got to get into that. It was a whole new world for me.
Q: Can you tell us who the other characters you discussed were?
Let me see if I can remember them. Um, like the Scarlet Witch was one of them. The Blonde Phantom? Was that the other one? Like Moon. Am I messing that one up? It is The Blonde Phantom right?
Q: I have never heard of her, but she may exist.
(Laughs.) Well then scratch that. That’s my own superhero I am going to bring to the big screen.
Q: In the comics Black Widow was a Russian spy who speaks Russian. Is your Black Widow Russian and tied into Mickey’s character?
Well, you’re going to have to wait and see. That would just be giving you too much. I will say she is covert and I think she blends in. It’s not like she comes into the scene ‘Who is that Russian chick?’
Q: You are not using an accent.
No. I think that would be a little bit of a dead giveaway. I don’t know how covert you’d be if you were ‘talking like this’ [in a deep Russian accent]. (Laughs.) But, I would’ve if I had to.
Q: Can you talk about what preparation you had to do for the role?
Certainly, like I said, it’s all about the suit and for me as an audience member, I hate to watch those action sequences where you just don’t see the actor’s face and it’s all the back of their head. ‘That’s a terrible stunt double.’ You get to know an actor’s body and for me it was important to do the stunt work and be able to fight and to be able to fight within it I suppose. So, it was just a lot of training. Stunt training, weight training, all kinds of stuff. I really wanted to be able to look at something and go ‘I’m going to kick the [expletive] out of that person’ and believe it is a challenge in itself. Especially when you’re 5’3 and fighting someone who is seemingly a giant. To be able to have conviction in that, I was just as much intimidated as the physical part of it.
Q: When you came on board, did anyone at Marvel explain to you: this is what the part is going to be in this movie, but our plan is to take a storyline and extend it to an ‘Avengers’ film or a third ‘Iron Man’ movie? Did they pitch it to you that way?
No, I wasn’t pitched it at all that way. I think certainly Marvel is about building the characters and building the fan bases around these characters and being able to kind of extend the life in the movie world at least. These characters they have a vested interest in. Obviously, the fans have a vested interest in and it would be a shame to take a character like Black Widow who has been around for so many years and has built such a fan based and had so many incarnations and have so many kinds of storylines and often interacts with many of the different characters in the Marvel Universe and certainly The Avengers being one of those examples and not going ahead with it. I think it’s up to the fans. If the fans respond to the character and I think Marvel works very much that way. They are sort of fans themselves. I think they will kind of feel out what the masses are craving and hopefully that will be ‘Black Widow.’
Q: Coming into the second one, how did you think your evolution within the story occurred?
In my mind, this whole story as it relates to the first one it’s kind of — I dunno I mean I try to compare it to something like ‘Hamlet’ where it’s that kind of dramatic second act where there is a huge climax and everything culminates with the characters and a character can kind of go down two different paths. I think a lot of the characters in this film have to make a choice and [there is sort of] that iconic good vs. evil that comes into play. It’s not all gray. There are choices that have to be made and I think that a lot of the characters are forced to step up to the plate and realize how important they are, how invaluable they are to humankind. And kind of decide, ‘Alright, I have this all in the palm of my hand. Which way can I go.’ And that to me is epic. It’s that kind of story and certainly I think Jon has had that in his mind that he wants this to be the arc of the character and hopefully the third installment will sort of be the culmination of that. Whether it be good or evil, but we hope, of course, good always prevails. I think that will be — there will be a different kind of fight involved.
Q: Any sort of romantic connection between you two?
Um, you’ll have to wait and see.
Q: Kevin told us Marvel does nine-picture deals. Was that unusual for you as an actress to have to hang on to something as tough as that?
Um, well, y’know I think certainly in this particular situation. I know Robert has had this. You become invested in these films as much as the studio is and you’re able to develop your character with the studio and have a lot of input in that sense. To, me that’s exciting. Rarely as an actor do we get to take it to the next level. We see a beginning, a middle or an end in one two hour film. But for me, to be able to build something and to be able to think about a character that had so many different histories and paths, to think about where she might go and will we find out more about her? I feel like that’s something you invest yourself in. But, of course, the whole beating the crap out of myself is a bit daunting, but I’ll do it. Oh, for the love …
“Iron Man 2” opens nationwide on May 7, 2010.