Any fan who’s tracked the MCU since its inception would have been burned by Marvel over its resistance to a Black Widow film in the past. All those years spent feeling like a Natasha Romanoff movie was a mere pipe dream did not feel great. But thankfully, we’re in a new era of Marvel now. The powerful potential of representation is slowly but surely being embraced behind and in front of the camera.
Recruiting screenwriter Jac Schaeffer and attentive, intimate filmmaker Cate Shortland was the crucial first step in forming a sturdy foundation of dedicated female voices to drive Black Widow’s solo outing. We’re willing to see them tackle the master spy’s next adventure, whether Marvel goes for its rumored prequel idea or instead keeps the character in the present day.
Finding the perfect actors to back up Scarlett Johansson in the titular role is another important element of production, but at least Marvel is also getting it right. Variety reported that Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz is in early negotiations to play a major role in Black Widow. Furthermore, the Hollywood Reporter announced that Stranger Things‘ David Harbour is thinking about adding the Marvel Cinematic Universe to his roster.
Should Weisz and Harbour jump aboard the Marvel train, they will join Florence Pugh (Fighting with My Family), who was cast in Black Widow in mid-March 2019. So, what’s stopping us from fan-casting to our heart’s content? These performers collectively provide an immense talent flex that we love to get hyped about. Which of Black Widow’s onscreen allies or nemeses would Weisz, Harbour, and Pugh be best suited for?
Thinking of Weisz, I am reminded of a brilliantly introspective actress capable of playing all kinds of characters — reserved or outrageous — with uncanny relatability. Mining for emotion is part of her expert craft, as evidenced in movies such as The Constant Gardener and Disobedience and even more mainstream fare like Constantine (her prior comic-based movie appearance). That doesn’t dampen the enigmatic vibe that enshrouds many of the personalities embodied by Weisz on screen, either. Both of The Favourite and My Cousin Rachel‘s varied melancholic undertones exemplify this.
Hence, it’s easy to see Weisz fill the shoes of someone as badass as Ophelia Sarkissian / Viper, a highly-skilled secret agent who sports an immunity to many toxins. Notably, a version of this character already exists the onscreen X-Men universe (she appears in James Mangold’s The Wolverine). Moreover, she has found life in an alternate reality on the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which exists in the MCU continuity).
However, Viper truly has a significant role in Black Widow’s backstory and would fit well into this origin story nonetheless. Having once gone by the name of Madame Hydra, Viper is often portrayed as a key figure in the eponymous terrorist organization that goes up against the marginally nobler S.H.I.E.L.D.
The MCU particularly takes its version of S.H.I.E.L.D. through fire and brimstone via Hydra infiltrations and dodgy bureaucracy. Romanoff, whose ledger drips red, is hit hardest by this fact. After all, she put her trust in Nick Fury and defected from Russia’s KGB in order to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. only for it to dissolve. Viper’s sinister affiliations could, therefore, serve as a possible, powerful threat to Black Widow’s personal values.
Meanwhile, Harbour has long been a stellar character actor across the big and small screen. Spotting him in a slew of varied projects, including Brokeback Mountain, Quantum of Solace, a whole bunch of Law & Order, and The Newsroom, is an entertaining exercise in and of itself.
These days, Harbour is holding the fort as a big damn hero in Stranger Things. We’ll soon see how he fares as Hellboy, too. Superhero movies aren’t new ground for the actor, though, given that he also had parts in The Green Hornet and Suicide Squad.
As far as Black Widow is concerned, Harbour could bring some kind of fatherly vibe to the proceedings and portray Ivan Petrovich. In the comics, this human cyborg acted as Romanoff’s parental figure and protector, even becoming her handler after she left the Red Room. His involvement in her recruitment in the Black Widow Ops Program is also an avenue to parse. Overall, Petrovich’s addition would certainly amplify her personal anchors outside the main Avengers unit, which I am all about.
Or maybe Harbour will be a foe instead. The role of paranoid businessman Damon Dran would suit him, as well. The character’s real asset — besides his finances — is a high level of superhuman durability that was made possible by a self-commissioned device, Project Four. When Black Widow steals it in the comics, all hell breaks loose.
Last, but certainly not least, Pugh has totally captivated us in recent years. From her lead roles in projects such as Lady Macbeth, The Little Drummer Girl, and Fighting With My Family, Pugh showcases that she belongs to a class of malleable actor. Someone who can effortlessly exude stone-cold magnetism in a period piece in one role and burst with eagerness and charisma in the next.
Pugh could play known Black Widow rival Yelena Belova. The character also trained in the Red Room Academy with comparable test scores to Romanoff. What really makes her stand out is that she is the second assassin to take up the mantle of “Black Widow.” For a time, Yelena is at deadly odds with her predecessor. She and Romanoff would eventually grow to have a more conflicted dynamic that could definitely be explored on screen.
Another option would be for Pugh to depict Darkstar / Laynia Petrovna, a mutant with the ability to manipulate energy from the mystical Darkforce. Originally tasked by a Soviet super-team to track Romanoff down after she defects, Darkstar notably joins the latter’s side. There’s potential to once again mirror Romanoff’s roots in Petrovna, which could unlock more storytelling opportunities in MCU films down the line.
Basically, is this cast not already freaking lit?! I admit that almost three whole phases of the MCU later, my feelings about Black Widow have oscillated substantially. Of course, Marvel is known for its secrecy, so nothing is confirmed. However, each new development surrounding it has been increasingly faith-restoring. Black Widow may just get the excellent solo movie she deserves.