"Before I worked for S.H.I.E.L.D., I made mistakes, but I'm done running from my past. We have to go back to where it all started. We have unfinished business. One thing's for sure: it's going to be a hell of a reunion."Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow
In Marvel Studios' action-packed spy thriller Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. "I think from the very beginning when we first started talking about doing this standalone film, there was no reason to do it unless we could really dig deep and be brave and go there," says Scarlett Johansson, who reprises her role as Natasha/Black Widow. "Having played this character for a decade, I wanted to make sure that it would feel artistically and creatively rewarding for me as well as the fans."
Producer Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios' president and chief creative officer, says that Natasha Romanoff has sparked intrigue since her big-screen debut in 2010's "Iron Man 2." "She has such a rich backstory," says Feige. "We've hinted at it throughout all the other films. But we approach it in a completely unexpected way. She's been up to a lot all along-in between when we see her in the other movies-some of which will be surprising to people." According to Feige, it was Johansson who reached out to director Cate Shortland to see if she'd consider helming the film. "Cate came to Los Angeles and fell in love with the character and the possibilities," says Feige. "She realised she could tell a very personal story and do something extremely special on a big canvas."
Says Shortland, "I think what's exciting about the film is we're playing with the audience's expectations. We're exploring parts of Natasha that the audience has absolutely no idea about. We explore her family, love and passion, and you get to see all these facets of her we have never seen before."
According to the director, the creative team had almost a blank slate in terms of Natasha's backstory. "I worked with a Russian historian in London to build a history of where she would've been born, what her mother would've been like, why her mother would've given her up and what her childhood would've been like before she went into the Red Room," says Shortland. "Then we had to create a whole narrative that fit within the narrative of our film-how she would've been trained to be an American girl, to speak English and understand popular culture. I always try to build characters from their skeleton to create real people. Even though this is about a Super Hero, I went through the same process. Black Widow is a femme fatale, but what is she underneath that?"
In addition to her 2010 debut, Natasha Romanoff has appeared in six Marvel films, including Marvel's The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's exciting and emotional Avengers: Endgame. "We introduced Natasha Romanoff to our audience in 'Iron Man 2,'" says executive producer Victoria Alonso. "For me, however, the most important scene for her was in 'The Avengers' when she fights these Russians in a warehouse while wearing a dress. She walks away and picks up her high heels like an ultimate badass. In this movie, we go back to when she was about 12 years old. Little by little, we start peeling back the layers."
Black Widow is set before Avengers: Infinity War. "The film takes place on the heels of 'Captain America: Civil War,'" explains co-producer Brian Chapek. "Natasha has broken the Sokovia Accords, betrayed Secretary Ross, and the Avengers find themselves disbanded. In the beginning of the movie, we establish Natasha desperate to evade Ross and leave U.S. soil. When she gets an opportunity to start over again, she quickly realises that there are darker forces out there in the world that compel her to return to the action."
According to screenwriter Eric Pearson, the ongoing mystery of Natasha Romanoff was compelling- for both audiences and filmmakers. "I think she's the one Avenger who's shared the least about herself ever since we met her," he says. "She's not who she says she is in 'Iron Man 2.' She chooses to withhold her past and who she is personally from the audience and the other characters. In 'Black Widow,' we get to rip open her past and see what led to her hesitation to open up."
For Jac Schaeffer, who contributed to the story, having the wealth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Johansson's portrayal as Natasha to draw upon was both lucrative and daunting. "There's a burden to deliver on this woman that we know, love and idolise in so many ways," she says. "There is such a rich tapestry to draw from and then we expand upon all of it."
The end result is a high-intensity action thriller, says Chapek. "At the same time, our movie answers a lot of mysteries about Natasha's past," he adds. "We've seen her character evolve and open herself up to us. We've given hints about who she is and what makes her tick. In 'Avengers: Endgame' we saw Natasha get to a place in her life where she could make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Now we want to tell the story about who she really is as a human being and what led to her being capable of making that heroic decision."
Executive producer Brad Winderbaum adds, "In every Marvel movie we try to bring a different tone, a different genre, a different idea to the table-something that we haven't seen before, which lets us make wild swings between something like 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' to 'Thor: Ragnarok.' We are always searching for something new, and with 'Black Widow' we unveil a whole aspect of her history that's completely unexpected."
Based on the beloved Marvel comic-book series first published in 1964, Black Widow stars Tony Award® and BAFTA winner, and five-time Golden Globe® and recent double Oscar® nominee Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Endgame, Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit) as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Oscar nominee Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women) as Yelena Belova, Academy Award®-winning actress Rachel Weisz (The Favourite, Disobedience) as Melina, and Golden Globe nominee David Harbour (Stranger Things, Extraction) as Alexei aka Red Guardian. O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid's Tale, The Five) was cast as Mason, and Academy Award® and BAFTA winner William Hurt (Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War) reprises his role as Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross.
Marvel Studios' Black Widow is helmed by multiple award-winning director Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome, Somersault) and produced by Kevin Feige. The screenplay is by Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) and the story is by Jac Schaeffer (WandaVision, The Hustle) and Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them). Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Brad Winderbaum, Nigel Gostelow and Scarlett Johansson are the executive producers. Brian Chapek (Thor: Ragnarok as associate producer) and Mitch Bell are coproducers. The creative team includes director of photography Gabriel Beristain, ASC (Agent Carter, Marvel One-Shot: Item 47), BAFTA-nominated production designer Charles Wood (Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War), editors Leigh Folsom Boyd, ACE (Spider-Man: Far From Home, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) and Matthew Schmidt (Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War), BAFTA-winning costume designer Jany Temime (Skyfall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part 2), and BAFTA-winning visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann (Black Panther, Doctor Strange). Music is by composer Lorne Balfe (Mission: Impossible - Fallout, The Crown).
Production for the spy thriller kicked off in Summer 2019, shooting on three continents over 87 days. Based in Pinewood Studios just outside of London, the film shot on location in the U.K., Norway, Budapest, Morocco and Atlanta.
As filmmakers peeled back the layers of Natasha Romanoff, they realised they'd have to go back in time to offer insight into the character and how she became Black Widow. According to director Cate Shortland, the film had to address Natasha's past with the MCU's signature humor and action, while leaning into the emotional aspects. The challenge was in finding the right balance. "I knew that the film had to be fun," Shortland says. "I love spectacle. I wanted Natasha to take off. I wanted people to watch this character fly-to watch her transcend."
Among the discoveries in Black Widow is an unconventional family unit dating back to Natasha's childhood. Joining Scarlett Johansson are Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz. Says Shortland, "We knew that humor and the family dynamic were just as important as her facing her past."
Audiences are instantly swept back in time to see the family unit in action. "I wanted to make something that felt like a documentary," says Shortland. "I wanted to hear the bugs buzzing-to feel so real that the audience would totally relate to it. It comes as a shock because it's at the beginning of a Marvel Studios movie. It's a beautiful look at what this family was and why the girls would be traumatised by losing it."
The journey takes a deeper dive into not only Natasha's life, but also the lives of the people from her past, revealing a host of new characters that have shaped Natasha's life for better or worse.
Natasha Romanoff, separated from the now-fractured Avengers, confronts the dark path she took to becoming a spy and an assassin, as well as events that followed. She reluctantly reunites with an unlikely group of spies from her past who share a critical part of her history, as well as a desire to stop a lethal force from being unleashed. But Natasha's efforts are threatened by a deadly assassin whose unique skill set is unlike anything Natasha has ever faced.
"When you see Natasha in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she's often this kind of impenetrable force," says Scarlett Johansson, who returns as Black Widow. "She's reckless and out of control but still has this amazing intellect. What are her secrets? Her vulnerabilities? I am excited to share her fragility and her strength. She is in a male world, and she projects a certain way of being in that world. What we wanted to do is find out who is the real Black Widow."
Adds director Cate Shortland, "The character has to unpack her life. She really wants to shut all those doors, and we throw them all open. Scarlett really thought about who Natasha is as a human, rather than just a Super Hero. Under all her bravado, she's frightened. She comes into this film thinking she's always going to be alone. She's told herself that's OK."
Says Johansson, "I know a lot about this character, because she's in me. But I haven't really had the opportunity to access all the parts of her. Cate loves the idea of going inside this character. I've been able to make a lot of discoveries about her-to find different strengths and different flaws. It's been pretty therapeutic. I can't imagine that many actors have the opportunity to do that with a character they've played for 10 years."
Screenwriter Eric Pearson says the character's mysterious past was ripe with opportunity. "I hope people will be surprised to see the kind of benchmark moments in Natasha's life that led to her being an Avenger," he says. "We get to bring a lot of depth-to really fill out this character who's chosen to remain in the shadows." There is no shortage of action, however. "I'm probably biased, but I think there are some of the best fights we've had in the MCU," says Johansson. "They come from the place of character. It's an important part of the storytelling to understand where Natasha is mentally in each fight."
The storytelling also guides the look of the character. According to costume designer Jany Temime, who was nominated for a BAFTA Award for her work on 2019's "Judy," creating the wardrobe for the character was a collaborative process. "Scarlett knows that character and her no-fuss personality," she says. "Natasha is a very strong woman but also somebody who's been hurt-that's what makes her human." Temime made a key addition to the character's wardrobe. "For the first time, we have a white costume for Black Widow," says the costume designer. "Scarlett has an incredible white suit because she has to fight in Siberia. I looked at military outfits designed for the snow, and I thought, 'Why not?' I added black accessories to keep it tough. It works brilliantly. It's just gorgeous."
Young Natasha leads a normal life in suburban Ohio with her mom, dad and little sister, Yelena. Sporting blue hair and an old soul, Natasha is a little more grown up than her preteen counterparts, and she always keeps a close eye on her sister. Some days, she even imagines this could be her life forever.
Ever Anderson was cast to portray Young Natasha. "I would describe Young Nat as a tomboyish girl, a great student and someone who wants a normal life," says Anderson. "She had been through so much before coming to Ohio, so she just wants to forget about her past and start over."
Anderson says Natasha is very protective of her little sister. "I think Nat is very motherly with her sister," she says. "Yes, sometimes they squabble and fight, but in the end Natasha would do anything for Yelena because she really loves her."
Yelena Belova, a product of the Red Room's ruthless training program, has a secret history with the Black Widow that she is determined to address. When Yelena finds herself caught in a world with dangerous threats around every corner, her only chance at survival may be through a tenuous truce with the person she blames for a lifetime of torment-Natasha Romanoff. "Yelena doesn't care-she's going to speak her mind and she's not going to answer to anybody," says Shortland. "I think young women in the audience will be cheering because she doesn't have to excuse herself. That's what we got with this beautiful character."
Florence Pugh portrays the fiery assassin. "Yelena is hurt and complicated and acts out," says Pugh. "One of the coolest things about playing Yelena is just how complex and broken she is for someone who is so sure of what she does. She knows exactly how to function in the areas in which she's been trained, but she has no clue how to live as a human being. She's a lethal weapon but also a bit of a kid. That's been one of the nicest qualities about her."
Shortland, who saw Pugh in Lady Macbeth, was keen to work with the actress. "She's really beguiling," says the director. "She and Scarlett as a team are unstoppable. It was beautiful to see them together." Screenwriter Eric Pearson agrees. "We shot the scene where Natasha and Yelena are reuniting right at the beginning of production," he says. "Natasha walks through a safe house in Budapest while they speak to each other-they haven't seen each other yet. As they reveal themselves, they're perfectly mirrored. As soon as I saw that, I thought, 'We have a movie.'
"Yelena is the perfect counterpart to Natasha," Pearson continues. "While Natasha is withdrawn, Yelena has achieved a level of emotional freedom. She's outgoing, assertive and blunt-it throws Natasha off-kilter and brings out more of her personality."
"I think Yelena wants someone to apologise," says Pugh. "She wants to stop feeling like she's insane. This isn't normal, and she really wants to let everybody know that she did not have a choice in this. The whole of Yelena's anger, and I suppose her journey, is just trying to get these people that she thought she knew so well to admit that what they did was wrong, and that she was abandoned.
"She doesn't exactly fit," continues Pugh. "That's one of the charming things about her. She reacts instinctually. There's nothing mysterious about her. She's quite simply there to get the job done. I think her relationship with Natasha is interesting because they're constantly butting heads in the way that siblings do. But she's equally, deeply in pain. She's had a very confusing childhood and I think she's constantly searching for a way to patch herself up."
Temime says the sisters' costuming reflects their divergent personalities while offering a clue to the future. "I wanted to have different styles for these sisters," she says. "Yelena's suit is more down to earth; it's not a Widow suit-it's a fighter suit. And this is where we introduce the green vest. It's Yelena's vest before we see it on Natasha."
Young Yelena is thriving in an idyllic suburban household somewhere in Ohio. Her days are filled with family dinners and bicycle rides-as close to perfect as a little girl can get, save for an occasional skinned knee. Even then, her big sister is always there to make everything better-until she isn't.
"Young Yelena is trusting and loving," says Violet McGraw, who portrays the character. "She loves Natasha and looks up to her. They are a little competitive-mostly because Yelena wants to impress her big sister."
Melina is a highly trained spy who has been cycled through the Red Room's Widow program four times. After various undercover missions, one of which involved a young Natasha Romanoff, the Red Room recognised Melina's intelligence, making her one of their lead scientists. After decades of service, Melina has been able to distance herself from the Red Room, but when Natasha shows up Melina must decide where her allegiance lies. "She was recruited when she was very young," says Rachel Weisz, who portrays Melina in the film. "She became a Russian spy and was planted with Alexei and two very young children in America pretending to be a suburban family with a white picket fence. I think Melina was a lot happier in those years. I think her heart really hardened after that. She became hard and maybe a little bitter."
According to Shortland, although Melina finds herself in a matriarchal role, she's still a spy. "She would've thought of it as a job-but what happens if it becomes more than that? The reality is that it isn't up to her. She's part of the Red Room and becomes an apologist for that system."
Costume designer Jany Temime had to create a diverse wardrobe for Melina ranging from suburban-mom style to overalls to a Widow costume. "She's a mom from Ohio in 1995," says Temime. "Then we jump in time and she has a pig farm in Russia, which gives way to her role as a powerful Widow. It's a big jump, but Rachel carried it all brilliantly."
Chapek says Weisz's background in dramatic roles was an asset. "She brings a truthfulness and nuance to the character," he says. "Melina has been part of this spy world-coming through the Red Room long before Natasha."
For Weisz, it was a thrill to come on board as the brilliant Melina. "The Marvel Cinematic Universe is probably the most popular and far-reaching contemporary mythology that there is right now, and it was definitely exciting to be invited to join them," she says.
Alexei/Red Guardian, the Red Room's answer to Captain America, is a super soldier and spy who lived a lifetime of triumph during the Cold War. Alexei's years of espionage are behind him, but he still considers himself the ultimate hero. He loves sharing his greatness with those around him-which these days include fellow inmates in the Russian prison where he resides. Deep down-way deep down-he harbors a lot of guilt about his life as a spy, especially when it comes to Natasha Romanoff, whom he knew long before she became Black Widow.
"In the beginning, for Alexei, everyone is sort of a reflection of him," says David Harbour, who portrays Red Guardian. "That's the narcissist's MO-he is not interested in anyone else. He's interested in how he's reflected in their eyes. 'So, am I cool? Am I strong? Do you like me? I know you do.'"
Director Cate Shortland confirms that Alexei is insecure-hiding behind his perceived power. But, she says, "I love the character-he's like a big Russian bear. He's a dad joke that does not end."
Adds Harbour, "He grew up in the Soviet Union and was chosen for a program similar to the Americans' Captain America. While the Americans were creating their hero, the Russians were developing the Red Guardian. The problem was that he did not become as famous as Captain America, and it's the great tragedy of his life. He feels very unappreciated."
Co-producer Brian Chapek says Harbour stepped into Alexei's shoes with ease. "People can't help but be drawn to him," says Chapek. "He has such an amazing fan following for his work on 'Stranger Things.' He has such a gritty empathy to him."
Harbour says the dichotomy of Alexei was appealing. "He's a very complicated guy," says the actor. "He's like this beastly guy who desperately wants to be liked. He wants people to think he's funny and charming. The zig and zag of the character in that way was so appealing to me: he is big and strong with all these human qualities."
Costume designer Jany Temime created two key costumes for Alexei. "He has a Russian prisoner costume," she says. "We made it a little too big, and it's dirty. It's as if he's been wearing it for 20 years.
"The Red Guardian costume is slightly tighter," Temime continues. "Alexei is a strong man, but it's been years since he's been in costume. It doesn't fit like it used to. So he struggles a little to put it on. But then he succeeds. In that costume, David walked differently. He wore it with lots of pride."
General Dreykov was the ruthless leader of the Red Room, the secret spy organization that transformed Natasha Romanoff into the Black Widow. While the world believes this organization was destroyed years ago, the Red Room has been operating from the shadows with an army of ruthlessly effective Black Widow assassins to do its dirty work. Natasha Romanoff holds Dreykov responsible for her tortured past, and wants to put an end to his Red Room operations. But as she closes in on him, General Dreykov summons all of the forces at his disposal to stop the assassin he created.
Filmmakers turned to Ray Winstone to bring Natasha's tormentor to life. "Dreykov is a guy who came from old Russia," says Winstone. "I think he was a man who started off with great intentions, but like most people who are put into that kind of situation, the greed and the power take over."
"Ray Winstone fit the bill perfectly," says Chapek. "The second he walks into the room he has such gravitas to him. What's interesting is we are actually introduced to a younger Dreykov in a sequence in Cuba in the mid '90s-a moment that shapes the future of a lot of people."
Taskmaster is a masked assassin who carries out deadly missions on behalf of the Red Room. Armed with the ability to mimic his enemies' every move, the calculating and formidable Taskmaster will stop at nothing until he accomplishes his mission. "He has this ability called photographic reflexes-so if he fights you once he knows how to emulate your style," says executive producer Brad Winderbaum. "Natasha's tricks might work in their first altercation, but by round two and three he knows everything, and she has to come up with something else."
Director Cate Shortland hints that Taskmaster has a connection with Natasha's past. "In some ways, the Taskmaster is the living embodiment of Natasha's backstory," says the director.
To create the costume for the nimble assassin, Temime and her team had to ensure the garments could move. "We were quite obsessed with making it light so that he could jump and roll and do all of the acrobatics needed," she says. "The armor, helmet and hood are as light as we could make them. I was very happy with the technical success of the costume-it was one of the first costumes we worked on."
Mason is a man of mystery with a can-do attitude. In truth, he's a former soldier turned international smuggler who's paying a debt to Natasha Romanoff after she rescued him from a Cambodian prison. Nonetheless, their bond is unmistakable. His ability to deliver on even the most far-fetched requests is admirable, though he's often caught sleeping on the job.
"When we meet Natasha and Mason, we realise that they have this rapport-even though they have not seen each other for many years," says co-producer Brian Chapek. "They have this chemistry. It was very important to Cate that we see someone in Natasha's past life who understands her in a way that the Avengers might not have.
"Mason is a new character to the Marvel Universe," continues Chapek. "He is basically a fixer in our movie. We needed someone who could be charming, strong and intelligent, and be on the same playing field as Natasha. O-T Fagbenle is just that-he is an incredible actor."
Fagbenle was excited to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe and work with Shortland. "She is such an auteur, and the movies she has done are so moving and meaningful," says Fagbenle of the director. "The confluence of her style with the scope of Marvel was really intriguing to me. Cate has a facility with emotional nuance between characters. I think it comes partly because she is a very grounded human being."
The Widows are the up-and-coming spy assassins who've seemingly come from the same program that trained Natasha. The idea that the Red Room might still exist is painful for Natasha, and the existence of an army of ruthless warriors might also prove problematic.
There are 22 Widows that feature in the film, including actresses, stuntwomen, dancers and martial arts practitioners from different parts of the world. "In dealing with an organization like the Red Room, we wanted to expand upon that mythology, and in doing so, introduce a whole new group of Widows," says Chapek. "One of the most amazing experiences throughout this whole process was seeing these characters come to life in one room together."
When casting the Widows, the filmmakers were looking for diverse skill sets. "We were looking for people with all types of martial arts, Wushu-based skills, judo and kickboxing," says stunt coordinator Rob Inch. "We made sure they all had a signature in their own fighting skills."
The production not only took stunts to a new level, it redefined what a set on an MCU film looked like. "It was striking how many stuntwomen we had on set at any given time," says Scarlett Johansson. "The power of these women in one room together was something I'd never experienced before. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by all these badass women and be able to get down and dirty with them. It was great."
Marvel Studios' Black Widow filmed on location in Norway, Budapest, Morocco, Atlanta and in the U.K., capturing the gritty, worldly locales that helped set the stage for the story. According to co-producer Brian Chapek, filmmakers wanted the film to feel broad and worldly to reflect Natasha's history. "Being a globe-trotting spy film, it was important that we place Natasha in real-world environments-places that could not be replicated on backlots. It was important to achieve that sense of reality to actually go to many of these places and shoot it for real."
For those sequences that couldn't be done on location-and building on many that were-an extraordinary team of artists and technicians was called on to conceptualise and create a host of sets at Pinewood Studios just outside of London, ranging from the mysterious Red Room to the interior of a helicopter. Additional sets were built at Cardington Studios, located just over 50 miles from London.
Director of photography Gabriel Beristain is no stranger to Marvel Studios, contributing additional photography to a host of films including the Iron Man trilogy, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok. Black Widow marks his first Marvel Studios feature as DOP - but Beristain was able to hit the ground running, bringing the signature MCU style to the high-octane action while infusing director Cate Shortland's sensibilities into the deeper character moments. Says Beristain, "I have always believed that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is rooted in a wonderful artistic conception-Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby-the greatest artists of the Marvel Comics tradition were great storytellers. Following their work made 'Black Widow' a tremendous film experience.
"Cate Shortland and I were extremely keen on the perfect combination of elements that gave life to the unique language of the film," continues Beristain. "We took every element and gave it the importance it deserves in the film narrative. Shot composition and camera work, light, shadow and colour were often starting points. The script was evolving constantly, but conceptually it was very solid. Eric Pearson and I have worked together many times in the past, and we developed a shorthand language that is refreshing. We took many interesting creative risks in 'Agent Carter,' and we did it even more with 'Black Widow.' We believed and celebrated film language in all its majestic complexity and beauty."
According to Beristain, the emotional undercurrent of the story was always top of mind. "Cate and I took our cameras close to the emotion, while respecting the performance process," he says. "By using our three cameras and very little intrusive lighting, we took the audience as close as possible to those moments when the audience needed to have an emotional investment in the character. 'Black Widow' will make people forget for moments that they are in a fictional world-they'll come very close to the characters' emotions, their plights and predicaments."
Production designer Charles Wood is also part of the Marvel Studios family, serving as production designer for six feature films within the MCU prior to Black Widow, including Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Wood's next Marvel Studios feature, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, recently wrapped production.
Wood says he's typically given a broad playing field when it comes to building the worlds within the MCU. While there are occasional cues from the comics, the worlds he helps create are fresh and wholly driven by the storytelling. "We have a lot of design freedom," he says. "That comes from the nature of what these films are-they're all so different. There's no bookending to any of it. From a design aspect, it's very liberating." Complementing their efforts is the visual effects team, headed by VFX supervisor Geoffrey Baumann, whose wealth of experience and imagination created stunning effects alongside more subtle efforts that expanded practical locales, added digital backdrops, bolstered action sequences and built digital elements. Baumann worked in the same capacity on Marvel Studios' 2018 blockbuster Black Panther. His credits within the MCU also include Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers.
Baumann knew, however, that this new film would be different. "I believe 'Black Widow' has a tactile spy-thriller feel to it that is different than any other films in the MCU," he says. "Because of this, much of the VFX needed a real-world feel that the audience could relate to. Replicating real-world environments or drawing on images from the Cold War allowed us to keep this illusion going. It was a tremendous collaboration between all departments but most critically for us in VFX was the relationship with production design. Taking the real-world locations that inspired the sets allowed us to blend between sets and CG extension relatively seamlessly."
Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow & Executive Producer) is a Tony Award® and BAFTA Award winner, two-time Oscar® nominee and five-time Golden Globe® nominee. She was most recently seen in the final installment of the Avengers film series, Avengers: Endgame, reprising her role as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow; in the Golden Globe-nominated Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach; and in Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit. Other recent roles include Avengers: Infinity War, Lucy, Under the Skin, Ghost in the Shell, Isle of Dogs and Her, which earned her a best actress award at the Rome Film Festival.
Johansson received rave reviews as Nicole Barber in Marriage Story, and was nominated for an Oscar®, a Golden Globe®, a Screen Actors Guild Award® and a BAFTA Award for her role. She also received nominations for an Oscar, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a BAFTA for her role in Jojo Rabbit. Johansson received the Upstream Prize for best actress in the Controcorrente section at the Venice International Film Festival for her starring role opposite Bill Murray in director Sofia Coppola's critically acclaimed Lost in Translation. Johansson won a Tony® for her Broadway debut in the Arthur Miller play A View from a Bridge opposite Liev Schreiber. She wrapped her second run on Broadway as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2013.
At the age of 12, Johansson attained worldwide recognition for her performance as Grace MacLean, the teen traumatised by a riding accident in Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer. She went on to star in Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, garnering a best supporting actress award from the Toronto Film Critics Circle. Her breakthrough role came at the age of 10 in the critically praised Manny & Lo, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best female lead.
Johansson's other film credits include: Hail, Caesar!, The Jungle Book, Sing, Chef, Marvel's The Avengers, Don Jon, Hitchcock, We Bought a Zoo, Iron Man 2, In Good Company, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Match Point, He's Just Not That Into You, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Spirit, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Island, The Black Dahlia, The Prestige, The Nanny Diaries, North, Just Cause and The Man Who Wasn't There.
A New York native, Johansson made her professional acting debut at the age of 8 in the Off-Broadway production of Sophistry, with Ethan Hawke, at New York's Playwrights Horizons.
Florence Pugh (Yelena Belova) is an Academy Award®-nominated British actress who's come a long way since her breakout role in William Oldroyd's critically acclaimed 2017 film Lady Macbeth.
Pugh recently wrapped production on director Olivia Wilde's film Don't Worry Darling. Wilde, Harry Styles and Gemma Chan co-star alongside Pugh in the psychological thriller that finds Pugh playing a 1950s housewife who discovers her husband's (Styles) disturbing secrets. The film will be distributed by Warner Bros.
Up next, Pugh begins production in Ireland on the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue's novel The Wonder. Sebastián Lelio will direct, and Alice Birch has penned the screenplay alongside Donoghue. Set in the late 1850s, the story follows an English nurse who goes to a tiny village in Ireland to observe what some view as a medical anomaly and others consider a miracle: a young girl who has survived without food for months. As tourists flock to the cabin of the 11-year-old to witness the bizarre occurrence, a journalist is sent to cover the sensation.
Pugh will then go into production alongside Morgan Freeman on Zach Braff's A Good Person. The film will follow Allison (Pugh), whose life falls apart following her involvement in a fatal accident. In the following years, it is the unlikely relationship she forms with her would-be father-in-law (Freeman) that helps her live a life worth living. Braff will write and direct.
Pugh will also produce and star in Universal's upcoming murder mystery film The Maid, which is currently in development.
In December 2019 Pugh starred as Amy March in Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women. Adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel of the same name, the coming-of-age feature centered on four sisters during the Civil War era in Massachusetts after leaving their family home. Pugh received an Oscar® nomination for her performance in the film in the category of best performance by an actress in a supporting role, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award nomination in the category of best actress in a supporting role, and a Critics' Choice Movie Award nomination in the category of best supporting actress.
In July 2019 Pugh starred in A24's cult classic horror film Midsommar, directed by Ari Aster. Pugh was nominated in the category of best actress for the 2019 Gotham Independent Film Awards and was awarded the Virtuoso Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Earlier the same year, Pugh had the lead role in MGM and WWE Studios' Fighting With My Family, based on the life of WWE wrestler Paige, written and directed by Stephen Merchant. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Pugh also starred in AMC's The Little Drummer Girl, which launched in October 2018 on BBC in the U.K. and November 2018 in the U.S. Based on the John le Carré bestseller of the same name, the six-part drama is set in the 1970s as a young, brilliant actress prepares for her ultimate role in the theater of the real, and against the backdrop of rising tensions in the Middle East. Park Chan-wook directs, and Alexander Skarsgaard and Michael Shannon have co-lead roles.
Pugh was the female lead in director's David Mackenzie's Outlaw King, which premiered on Netflix in 2018. Outlaw King told the story of Robert the Bruce, the king who led his country to freedom from the oppressive rule of England during the First War of Scottish Independence. The film also starred Chris Pine and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Pugh first made her mark with her starring role as Katherine Lester in Roadside's Lady Macbeth. Directed by William Oldroyd, the film follows Katherine, who has been sold into marriage, as she discovers an unstoppable desire within herself when she enters into an affair with a worker on her estate. The film was named one of 2017's Top 10 Independent Films by the National Board of Review and won Best British Independent Film at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards. Pugh won best actress at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards and received the Malone Souliers Award for breakthrough of the year at the 2017 Evening Standard British Film Awards for her performance.
Pugh has also been seen in a starring role in ITV's critical hit Marcella, an eight-part crime thriller from the creators of the Scandinavian hit series The Bridge; the action film The Commuter opposite Liam Neeson; and as Cordelia opposite Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in the BBC/Amazon television movie King Lear.
She made her stunning debut in Carol Morley's The Falling, which earned her a best young performer nomination at the London Critics' Circle Film Awards.
Rachel Weisz (Melina) is an Academy Award®-winning actress known for portraying complex women, often combining vulnerability and strength in equal measure. Driven by great storytelling and a desire to work with visionary filmmakers, Weisz has added producer to her credits as she seeks out and develops engaging material with bold characters and authentic voices.
In her first major foray into television, Weisz headlines and executive produces Dead Ringers, a reimagining of David Cronenberg's cult classic 1980s film with a gender swap. Amazon has given a straight-to-series order to the project from Weisz, Alice Birch (lead writer of Hulu's acclaimed Normal People series), Annapurna Television and Morgan Creek Entertainment. It is tentatively scheduled to debut in 2022.
Weisz will produce and star in Lanny, the film adaptation of the eponymous Max Porter novel, which The New Yorker calls a hybrid morality tale about environmental awareness, parenthood, and growing up.
Weisz is also set to star as Elizabeth Taylor in A Special Relationship. The story will be told through the lens of Taylor's friendship with her assistant Roger Wall, exploring Taylor's journey from actress to activist. The feature is produced by See-Saw Films' Iain Canning and Emile Sherman based on the screenplay written by Academy Award® winner Simon Beaufoy.
In 2018 Weisz produced and starred in Sebastián Lelio's Disobedience alongside Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola. The film, which is based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, premiered at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim and was released by Bleecker Street. Also that year, Weisz starred in Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite, alongside Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Nicholas Hoult. The film received wide acclaim, earning Weisz a BAFTA Award for best supporting actress, and Academy Award®, Golden Globe® and Screen Actors Guild Award® nominations for her performance.
In 2014 Weisz executive produced Radiator, Tom Browne's directorial debut starring Richard Johnson, Gemma Jones and Daniel Cerqueira. The film debuted at the London Film Festival and received several festival awards including the Special Jury Prize at the Sarasota Film Festival.
In 2005 Weisz earned a Screen Actors Guild Award®, a Golden Globe® Award and an Academy Award® for her performance in Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener. In 2012 she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea. Her performance also earned her best actress awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Toronto Film Critics Association.
Weisz's diverse film work includes The Mercy, My Cousin Rachel, Denial, Complete Unknown, The Light Between Oceans, Youth, The Lobster, Agora, The Brothers Bloom, My Blueberry Nights, The Lovely Bones, Definitely Maybe, The Whistleblower, The Bourne Legacy, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Shape of Things, The Fountain, Runaway Jury, About a Boy, Enemy at the Gates, Constantine, Stealing Beauty, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.
Weisz starred in the Off-Broadway production of the Public Theater's Plenty, and on Broadway in Mike Nichols' Betrayal. She won the Laurence Olivier Award in the category of best actress for her performance as Blanche DuBois in the West End revival of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.
David Harbour (Alexei/Red Guardian) is an award-winning actor who's gained a reputation as one of the most versatile actors around, consistently delivering compelling performances on film, television and stage.
Harbour stars in No Sudden Move, an upcoming American crime thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh, alongside a stellar ensemble cast of Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Kieran Culkin, Brendan Fraser, Noah Jupe, Julia Fox and Amy Seimetz. Set in 1955 in Detroit, No Sudden Move centers on a group of smalltime criminals who are hired to steal what they think is a simple document. When their plan goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them-and for what ultimate purpose-weaves them through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city. It makes its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 18, 2021, and is scheduled to be released on July 1, 2021, by HBO Max.
For his role as Chief Jim Hopper in Netflix's smash hit Stranger Things, Harbour has been nominated for an Emmy®, a Golden Globe®, a SAG Award®, and a Critics' Choice Award. He won the 2016 SAG Award as part of the ensemble, and won the 2018 Critics' Choice Award for best supporting actor in a drama series. Season three of the show premiered July 4, 2019, and over 40.7 million household accounts tuned in within the first four days of its global launch, which is more than any other film or series in its first four days. He is in production on season four.
Harbour was recently seen in the Netflix action film Extraction opposite Chris Hemsworth. The film was produced by Joe and Anthony Russo and is the directorial debut of stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave. Harbour also starred in the surreal comedy mockumentary short film Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein directed by Daniel Gray Longino and written by John Levenstein. It was released on Netflix July 16, 2019, to rave reviews praising Harbour's comedic performance.
A Tony® nominee for the revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Harbour's other theater credits include Fifth of July, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Merchant of Venice, Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love and The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center Theater.
Additional film credits include the action thriller Sleepless; David Ayer's DC blockbuster Suicide Squad with Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie; Scott Cooper's Black Mass opposite Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Edgerton; The Equalizer opposite Denzel Washington; A Walk Among Tombstones co-starring Liam Neeson; Parkland; End of Watch; Revolutionary Road; Thin Ice; Brokeback Mountain; The Green Hornet; Quantum of Solace; W.E.; Between Us; and Lionsgate's Hellboy reboot co-starring Ian McShane and Daniel Dae Kim. On the small screen, Harbour was seen in WGN America's 1940s series Manhattan as rival scientist Reed Akley. The series was created and written by Sam Shaw (Masters of Sex) and directed by Emmy® Award-winning director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing). Other TV credits include Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, NBC's State of Affairs, Rake, Pan Am and voiceover work for HBO's Animals.
Harbour graduated from Dartmouth College with a double major in drama.
Ray Winstone (Dreykov) celebrated 40 years in the industry, marking him as one of the U.K.'s most prolific actors playing some of cinema's most iconic roles. Recent film credits include Cats, King of Thieves and Jawbone, a British film about a boxing champion who returns to his childhood gym after hitting rock bottom. Winstone starred in two series of Fuqua Films' and eOne's series Ice for Directv, straight off the back of filming ABC's series Of Kings & Prophets. 2016 also saw Winstone on screen in Ericson Core's remake of the 1991 cult classic Point Break and his return to U.K. TV screens with the Sky Arts miniseries The Nightmare Worlds of H.G. Wells, in which Winstone starred in the title role.
Other credits include The Legend of Barney Thomson, alongside Robert Carlyle and Emma Thompson, and the ITV three-part drama The Trials of Jimmy Rose, for which he won a Gold World Medal at the New York Festivals Awards. Prior to this he was seen in Pierre Morel's feature The Gunman alongside Sean Penn, Idris Elba and Javier Bardem, and the American film Zipper, directed by Mora Stephens and costarring Patrick Wilson, Lena Headey and Richard Dreyfuss, which premiered at Sundance. Winstone was born in Hackney in the East End of London. He started boxing at the age of 12, was three times London Schoolboy champion and fought twice for England. He studied acting at the Corona School before being cast by director Alan Clarke as Carlin (the Daddy) in Scum. This BBC Play production made Winstone's name, and since then he has appeared in numerous TV series and movies. After playing a starring role in Franc Roddam's Quadrophenia and being cast by Ken Loach in Ladybird, Ladybird, Gary Oldman gave Winstone the lead role in his gritty biographical drama Nil By Mouth, for which he won a British Independent Film Award for best actor and earned a BAFTA Award nomination. His mesmerizing performance led to a succession of challenging roles including Dave in the gangster movie Face and Dad in Tim Roth's disturbing drama The War Zone. He also played in the comedy drama Agnes Browne and Fanny & Elvis before delivering one of the finest performances of his career opposite Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast.
Other film credits include Cold Mountain, King Arthur, The Proposition, Oscar® winner The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese, Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering, the title role in the Robert Zemeckis film Beowulf, Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 44 Inch Chest for director Malcolm Venville, and London Boulevard and Edge of Darkness both for GK Films. Credits also include Darren Aronofsky's epic box-office hit Noah, Snow White and the Huntsman opposite Charlize Theron, and The Sweeney for Vertigo Films. TV credits include Great Expectations, Henry VIII (which went on to win best miniseries/TV movie at the International Emmy® Awards), Sweeney Todd and Compulsion, both films for television for his company Size 9 Productions, and Vincent, for which Winstone won an International Emmy Award for best actor for his eponymous role.
In December 2007 Winstone received the Richard Harris Award for outstanding contribution at the British Independent Film Awards.
Ever Anderson (Young Natasha) is a talented and rising young star of her generation. Currently, she is in production for the live-action remake of Peter Pan & Wendy, where she is playing the iconic role of Wendy Darling opposite Jude Law as the infamous Captain Hook. The film is set for a theatrical release in 2022, as well as streaming on Disney+. This marks the first installment of her three-picture deal with Disney.
Anderson began her on-screen career at the age of 8 in the feature film Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, playing the role of The Red Queen. Anderson has been photographed by some of the fashion world's most distinguished artists, such as Peter Lindbergh, Mikael Jansson, Inez and Vinoodh, Mario Sorrenti, Ellen von Unwerth and Gray Sorrenti. She has also appeared on a variety of magazine covers, including Vogue Bambini, Love, Jalouse, Chaos SixtyNine, Vs. and Flaunt Magazine, as well as appeared in the pages of Vogue Italia, i-D, Egoiste, Interview, Vogue Arabia, L'Officiel and Paper.
On social media, Anderson has accrued a large following on TikTok. Her verified account @everanderson currently has 281.8K followers and 1.8M likes. On Instagram, she has also accrued nearly 250,000 followers.
At only 10 years old, Violet Mcgraw (Young Yelena) has quickly made a name for herself as one of the most-watched young stars in the entertainment industry today. She can currently be seen in the Oscar buzzed-about film Our Friend, starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson and Jason Segal, where she holds her own against these heavyweights. McGraw also will play the lead in the upcoming Blumhouse Productions film M3GAN.
In 2018, McGraw starred in the critically acclaimed, Haunting of Hill House where she played fan favorite Young Nel. After completing the project, her director, Mike Flanagan, wrote a role for her in his feature film Doctor Sleep, and purposely named the character Violet.
On the television front, McGraw starred as Alice (series regular) on the Cinemax series Jett. Her Haunting of Hill House mom, the talented Carla Gugino, handpicked Violet to play her daughter. Shortly after filming ended on Jett, McGraw booked a lead in the film Separation, where she acts alongside Rupert Friend (Homeland), Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid's Tale) and Brian Cox (Succession). When she is not acting, McGraw enjoys playing soccer and hanging out with her three siblings, who are also in the entertainment business.
From drama to comedy, writing, producing and acting, O-T Fagbenle (Mason) has become one of the most watched talents in the entertainment industry today. He made history in 2020 by becoming the first person to create, write, direct, compose, executive produce and star in the pilot of a television series broadcast on a major network with his original TV comedy series, Maxxx (Channel 4, Hulu).
On the television front, it was recently announced that Fagbenle will star as Barack Obama in Showtime's highly anticipated anthology series The First Lady opposite Viola Davis, Gillian Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer. The limited series is a reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House. Fagbenle can currently be seen starring in the Golden Globe®- and Emmy®- winning drama series The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu) opposite Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss. Based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Atwood, the series is set in Gilead, a future totalitarian society that has formed throughout the United States. Fagbenle instantly became a fan favorite as Luke, June Osborne's (Moss) husband from the previous unrepressed world, and his heartbreaking scenes have contributed to the cast's many award nominations and wins, including outstanding drama series at the Primetime Emmy Awards, best drama series for the Critics Choice Television Awards, best television series - drama at the Golden Globe Awards, outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series at the Screen Actors Guild Awards® and best international program at the BAFTA Television Awards. Season 4 of The Handmaid's Tale premiered on April 28, 2021.
In Europe Fagbenle recently has held lead roles in two flagship U.K. series: Harlan Coben's The Five on Netflix and The Interceptor for the BBC. In theater, Fagbenle led the National Theatre cast of August Wilson's New York Drama Critics' Circle award-winning play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom to the prestigious Olivier Award. Fagbenle was also nominated for best actor for the illustrious Evening Standard Awards.
Additional film and television credits for Fagbenle include the HBO film Looking, completing his memorable characterization of Frank from the network's cult dramedy series of the same name; the BBC's critically acclaimed features NW by Zadie Smith and Walter's War, a biopic of the first mixed heritage officer in the British Army; Breaking and Entering (Miramax) opposite Jude Law, Robin Wright and Juliette Binoche; and I Could Never Be Your Woman (The Weinstein Company) alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd and Saoirse Ronan. Fagbenle also starred in the television series Thorne, an adaptation of the Mark Billingham novels Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat. Directed by 24 producer Stephen Hopkins, the six one-hour episodes also starred Sandra Oh and David Morrissey, and were sold to more than 100 countries.
In addition to his work in front of the camera, Fagbenle has a passion for working behind the scenes as well. He wrote, produced, directed, composed and starred in the British comedy series Maxxx. The series centers around formerly famous boy-band star Maxxx (Fagbenle), who tries to make his musical comeback in a bid to win back his famous supermodel ex-girlfriend (Jourdan Dunn), and prove to the world he isn't a washed-up has-been. The series debuted in the U.K. on Channel 4 and made its U.S. debut on Hulu in 2020.
Born in London and raised across London, Spain and Nigeria, Fagbenle was a world traveler at a young age. As a child his passion was music, and he played the saxophone in bands across Europe, performing at the Edinburgh Festival, Wembley Arena, the Royal Albert Hall and even touring Spain. At 16 years old, Fagbenle landed his first proper role in a Nigerian adaptation of the William Shakespeare play Macbeth. He went on to attend the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating early in 2001 and joining alumni such as Sean Bean, Ralph Fiennes and Anthony Hopkins. Theater became Fagbenle's passion, and he appeared in dozens of plays across the U.K., working in notable productions including the national tours of shows such as Ragamuffin, Romeo & Juliet (as Mercutio) and the West End debut of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. His work was met by outstanding reviews and multiple awards and nominations, including an Off West End nomination for best actor for his leading role as Suplianek in The Conquest of the South Pole, and taking home the M.E.N. Theatre Award for best actor in a leading role for his part in the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony® Award-nominated play Six Degrees of Separation.
When not on set, Fagbenle loves to play basketball, volunteers at numerous schools providing free drama and music classes for kids, and launched the charity organisation BC Foundation, which is dedicated to providing tech opportunities to young women in Africa. Fagbenle currently splits his time among Los Angeles, London, Tanzania and Toronto.