Black Widow writer Eric Pearson knew there was a key element missing from Natasha Romanoff’s final adventure, namely, her death scene, which in the strange world of the MCU happened two years and two movies ago during the events of Avengers: Endgame. But he’s got the perfect attitude with his simple mindset about that situation, “There’s no way around it.” Which is very true. So, instead, the focus became showing sides of Natasha we’ve never seen before. Namely, watching Natasha off the grid, drinking beer, watching the James Bond movie, Moonraker.
As Pearson describes it, way more debate went into which James Bond movie Natasha should be watching than we could possibly imagine. And Pearson shares with us a cut scene in which Natasha explains that, for her, watching James Bond is the same as how housewives watch The Real Housewives. (Pearson is admittedly proud of this line and also admittedly is clear he wishes it was in the movie.)
But, it’s not just our goodbye to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha. It’s a movie that also has to do a sort of hand-off to Florence Pugh’s Yelena. And a good way to do a hand-off is having the character we already know, Natasha, around to facilitate that. So, to ask about hand-offs, I tried to think of a bad example of a hand-off and, admittedly, this may have been too esoteric of a first question…
Are you familiar with the characters Coy and Vance Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard?
No. Actually, I’ve watched a lot of old TV, and I loved WandaVision, because I was like a big Bewitched, Green Acres guy. I never really saw The Dukes of Hazzard.
Coy and Vance are Bo and Luke Duke’s cousins that were introduced when John Schneider and Tom Wopat held out for more money. And I always remember Boss Hogg saying of Coy and Vance, these characters we never met before, that Bo and Luke looked like angels compared to them. My point is that was a bad way to do a hand-off to other characters, as opposed to showing the relationship like you do between Natasha and Yelena.
Does that make sense? It probably doesn’t…
I think so.
Like if Florence Pugh just shows up and then some other character says, “Natasha was an angel compared to Yelena,” and that’s all we get.
I totally know what you mean.
Handoffs can be difficult.
It was a tricky thing. Also, we wanted to do a Natasha Romanoff movie: this is how great she is, this is how she became who she is, here are some of her greatest hits. Here’s her, on her own, doing her own thing. I feel we did. It was a very intentional choice, too, when at the beginning of the movie, she goes on the run, she’s going off the grid. The whole idea is we feel we’ve known her for whatever: six, seven movies. She has been the most emotionally guarded, the most personally restrained Avenger. Surrounded by guys who love to talk about themselves. She was very careful about how much she’s going to let anyone get to know her. Now we get to go into this past and you realize that when she defected from the Red Room to Shield, she basically reset her life, and pretended a lot of that stuff from her past never happened.
It’s not how human beings function. You can’t just say, oh, none of that ever mattered, it didn’t ever exist. I think the best way to have fun with Natasha Romanoff – a character who is very in control of her own space – since we’re talking to sitcoms, it’s The Beverly Hillbillies. The guy goes off from the farm to become the big rich banker, but then he’s got to go home and he’s terrified.
Well, he discovered oil, they didn’t become bankers. They had to meet a banker, Mr. Drysdale. They had to find one to manage their new oil money.
Man, I’m not getting anything past you. Well, you know what I mean. She chose the Avengers as her family, but she chose them on her terms. There’s a difference between the family that’s your family, not on your own terms. And those people affect you in different ways.
I feel I was trying to have her be mission-focused, in charge all the way through, as they just keep bothering her until they just derail her and derail her until she just gets so frustrated and explodes.
Well, speaking about when she goes off the grid the scene that got me is when she watches Moonraker. I asked Cate Shortland about that and she said I needed to ask you.
Well, that’s a whole thing. This line was cut from the movie and I’m super butt-hurt about it because I think I’m so clever. The idea was she’s going off the grid and she’s got this character, Mason, who sets everything up for her. She’s going to have to be there for a while. I even thought, a great, great humanizing moment is entertainment. I thought it would be so funny if she had the complete Bond DVD series.
That is good.
The line that was cut was huge. It was like, “Really? You wanted Bond?” The line that she had, that I love, because I thought it was clever was, “Do you know how real housewives watch The Real Housewives? Those movies are like that for me.” The idea that Bond, to her, was like reality TV, cheesy reality TV? I thought that was funny. They cut it.
That is funny. I would have liked that.
Well, I will say, I couldn’t believe – especially because we’re shooting in the UK – how much discussion there was about which Bond movie it should be. I just wanted her watching Bond, because I thought it was really fun and humanizing. Also, for her to just be there having a snack and mumbling the words out of her, it was very charming to me. But, man, I think we ultimately went with Moonraker because there’s a jumping out of a plane with no parachutes.
So it’s reversed engineered? You already had that ending and you’re like, “Hey, wait, Moonraker starts like this.”
Yeah, but all that to say, there was a whole lot of opinion about which Bond movie she should be watching. I was just happy because I also knew it might be a logistic clearance thing to get a Bond clip in there. I just was pushing for her watching Bond. I also felt like, in my mind, Natasha, she doesn’t have superpowers or anything, she’s still an Avenger, she’s still a big hero. A love of movies that we like, it just helps to bring our movie to where we wanted to be on the ground.
For some reason, Moonraker feels right. That Natasha would pick a late ’70s Bond with Roger Moore.
Also, the python line is just so fun and cheesy and it was just fun for her to get to say that. But I’m so glad, I mean, that was really my move of like, “She should be watching a Bond movie, having a snack in just pajama pants.”
And there are some similarities with the arcs of Jaws and Taskmaster.
It’s so funny. I actually haven’t seen (Moonraker) in a while. I just watched a little. I saw it when I was younger and then I watched… There’s a double-take pigeon, which I didn’t know about. Do you remember that? The double-take?
Yeah. I have the GIF on my phone. There’s a pigeon that does a double-take at James Bond’s antics.
I mean, those old Bond movies blur together after a while.
I remember my parents rented it on VHS and as a kid I was disappointed the whole thing wasn’t in space. I wanted to watch James Bond in Star Wars. It plays much better as an adult. There’s a lot of globetrotting.
By the way, James Bond Star Wars? We might’ve just sold a movie to Disney accidentally.
Amazon probably has something to say about that these days, because I think they just bought James Bond.
If we get it, we can get it done faster.
Instead of the Spider-Man summit with Sony from a few years ago, it would be the James Bond summit so James can be in Star Wars.
Perfect. Love it.
So Natasha died in Avengers: Endgame two years ago. Writing it, that has to be frustrating? Because if I’m you, I’m looking at a movie like Logan, the final sendoff for this hero we’ve followed through so many movies. Then the death scene is kind of taken away from you.
Yeah. I mean, I knew that.
I don’t know. It was one of those things, where, what was I going to do about it? It was like, I can either think about this or not. I want to do the best version of showing the audience a new, different side of Natasha. We’re trying to build up tension. You don’t know what’s going to happen with the rest of these people. They could all die at the end of this. They could all be snapped out of existence. You don’t know what’s going to happen there.
I’m thinking if there’s a young kid and this is their first Marvel movie, it’s going to be very confusing to learn the title character died off-screen.
Yeah, there’s no way around that.
There’s no way around it. No, you’re right.
It’s true because it’s also, I don’t know, that’s the nature of the MCU, I think.
Do you know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of when I didn’t watch the first season of Lost. I was at my friend’s house. They were like, “Oh. Lost is back.” I was like, “What’s Lost?” Just, somehow, I didn’t know. I just didn’t know what it was. Then we watched the first episode of the second season of Lost and I was like, “Oh, God.” I went back, I had to get Netflix, all the DVDs?
They had to mail them to you.
If this were somebody’s first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, that’s most I could hope for, because if that’s their case, I would hope that they would see this and then be like “What?” Then, just have to like, “Uh.” And want to learn it all, because I do. You can enjoy them for one story, or you can try and enjoy them for 1/24th of this story, depending on how much you want to engage.
I want to see parents walking out of the movie trying to explain Natasha’s death and their young daughter saying, “Wait, who’s the Red Skull?”
But yeah, by the way, and the best thing that you could have then, is there are answers for you.
“Black Widow” launches simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets on July 9, 2021. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.