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‘Black Widow’ Director Says Film ‘Hands the Baton’ to Florence Pugh: ‘Propels New Female Story’

She's got indie film acclaim and an Oscar nomination. Now it's time for Florence Pugh to earn blockbuster stardom.

Black Widow

“Black Widow”

Marvel/screenshot

A long-standing rumor surrounding the upcoming Marvel movie “Black Widow” is that the action tentpole sets up Florence Pugh’s character Yelena Belova as a new superhero that will appear in future Marvel films now that Scarlett Johansson’s tenure as Black Widow is ending. The film’s director, Cate Shortland, more or less confirmed that’s the case in a new interview with Empire magazine. Shortland said that while her “Black Widow” film is a swan song for Johansson, it’s also a launching pad for Pugh in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“[Kevin Feige] realized that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction,” Shortland said. “And we didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great. Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”

Shortland also teased that “Black Widow” will give MCU fans the closure that “Avengers: Endgame” didn’t over the death of Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. “In ‘Endgame,’ the fans were upset that Natasha did not have a funeral. Whereas Scarlett, when I spoke to her about it, said Natasha wouldn’t have wanted a funeral,” the director said. “She’s too private, and anyway, people don’t really know who she is. So what we did in this film was allow the ending to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring. I think that’s a fitting ending for her.”

Pugh’s career has been skyrocketing since breaking out in the 2016 drama “Lady Macbeth.” The actress earned her first Oscar nominations earlier this year thanks to her performance opposite Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” and she wrote herself into the horror genre history books last year with her acclaimed performance in Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.” “Black Widow” marks Pugh’s Hollywood tentpole debut and Shortland’s comment suggests it’s just the beginning for the actress, as a larger role in the MCU is already being planned.

Disney was originally set to open “Black Widow” in theaters nationwide May 1, but the release date was pushed due to the pandemic. “Black Widow” is now set to open November 6.

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