Black Widow has had quite a few release dates. For more than a year now it it has felt like a movie in limbo. There were always rumors back in 2020, once it was realized the pandemic would not be short, that Black Widow might get a release on Disney+, but director Cate Shortland says that was never the case, at least to the best of her knowledge. Now, finally, On July 9th, Black Widow will be released in theaters (and at home on Disney+ for a premium price).
Black Widow does feel like a rare standalone MCU movie these days. It’s set right after the events of Captain America: Civil War as we find Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff (aka Scarlett Johansson) on the run and meeting up with her former spy family, played by David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and Florence Pugh. (“Spy family” in that they aren’t really related, but way back when they were all embedded Russian spies living in Ohio as a family.)
Ahead, director Cate Shortland, who was in her native Australia when we spoke, talks about what was going on in her head last year when Black Widow had delay after delay after delay and how, no, she’s excited people will finally get to see the first MCU movie since 2019. Also, there’s a scene in Black Widow when Natasha is just chilling, watching the James Bond movie Moonraker, so I had to know the significance of that reference. (Turns out I may have been reading too much into things.)
There’s a scene where Black Widow watches Moonraker. And I think I got all the references to Moonraker in this movie?
You know, we debated which film. And then I think it was Kevin Feige and Eric Pearson that said it has to be this film and it just seemed perfect. It just seemed perfect for that, I just love her mimicking the words and that she knows it.
She knows it very well.
She knows every single line from the movie. It’s pretty great.
So am I overthinking it with the references?
What did you think was a reference to it in the film?
Moonraker opens with what people consider one of the greatest movie skydiving stunts ever done. And Black Widow has a set piece involving a similar situation. And there are some similarities between Jaws in Moonraker and Taskmaster in Black Widow.
That was unintentional. If I asked Eric, the writer, he might say, might grab it now, and say it was completely intentional. I’m not sure.
And Jaws’s evolving relationship with James Bond has some similar beats as Taskmaster’s relationship with Black Widow.
That was unintentional.
See, I read too much into it.
I’m happy that there are coincidences, because, it’s kind of a beautiful coincidence.
So last year you were gearing up for this movie to come out and then the world shut down. I’m curious what was going on in your head. Did you think it would be a short delay or if you knew it might be this long?
You know what? When we finished work we were in Burbank and we had heard about this thing called COVID. Like everybody else in the world. And we were kind of, it felt like, so far away. And then three weeks later, we shut down. And I thought, oh, it’s going to be two weeks that we are shut down. Like many people, or many ignorant people, like myself. And so I think the film did not shift. What happened was it took longer to fix, to finish, well, fix and finish, at the end. We still finished the film and then we locked it a year ago. And then we all went our separate ways. So, I think the film hasn’t changed. What’s a beautiful coincidence, again, is the film is really about community coming back together. Or people who have a past, coming back together. It’s sort of a great thing for me to think about: people in cinemas, watching it, because of the idea of us as a community coming back.
Once people realized it wouldn’t be two weeks, was there any talk last year of maybe putting it on Disney+?
No. Kevin was adamant that the film should be screened in a cinema. Where it’s kind of this beautiful ritual, where people will go and enjoy the film together. I don’t think he wanted to break that. I think they wanted to wait, and they believed in the film, and they believed in the spectacle – the beautiful fairground spectacle of people just being uplifted by the excitement of these sequences. I’m so happy that I had those producers.
Are you coming to the United States for a premiere? Or are they doing one for you in Australia?
It’s a big deal in my house. So my 90-year-old dad is coming to Sydney. And my whole extended family, like 40 of us, are going to go and hopefully, one day, watch this in a cinema very soon. And yeah, for me what’s joyous is actually sitting in amongst a crowd an anonymous crowd. And I can just experience it with them. Yeah, I can’t wait, actually. I’m so excited. I’ve got a 12-year-old daughter.
Oh, well, she’s going to love this, right?
Yeah, she’s in some of it.
Oh, she is?
What’s she doing?
She’s in the title sequence. She’s a child and she’s being trafficked.
Oh, that’s sinister. Okay.
So she and her school friends came along and were part of that sequence.
She got to be in this movie, that’s wonderful.
Yeah. The only one of my films she hasn’t been in recently is Lore. My daughter is Black and that was set in 1945 in Germany. So she was always like, “I can not be in it?” I was like, “No, you can’t be in it.”
Yeah Germany, in that era. That’s a whole conversation.
‘Black Widow’ opens in theaters and begins streaming this coming weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.