Scarlett Johansson: What’s next for the Black Widow post-Avengers: Endgame?
Even well before Avengers: Endgame burst into cinemas across the world at the tail end of April, there was no doubt that this was going to be something of a game changer. After all, this was to be Marvel’s magnum opus, the epic conclusion to the staggering 22-movie-long narrative that had been the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Infinity Saga. And, indeed, over just its opening weekend, the three-hour film’s total takings were said to be an eye-popping US$1.2 billion, the highest first-two-days figure for any movie ever.
While Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America may have been central to this success, an equally important element of its appeal is none other than Black Widow, portrayed to perfection by Scarlett Johansson ever since the character first high-kicked her way into the MCU in 2010’s Iron Man 2. Across the near-decade since then, Johansson’s stock has risen, if anything, faster and further than The Avengers, which is now very much the Marvel mothership. Indeed, last year, Johansson’s take-home pay was a very tidy US$40.5 million, making her the world’s highest-paid actress and bringing with it the acknowledgement that she now truly is among the pantheon of all-time greats.
Her current mega-success, though, is a far cry from her eminently humble beginnings. The Black Widow-to-be was born in a low-income household in New York on 22 November 1984, the daughter – and child three of four – of Karsten Olaf Johansson, a Dutch architect, and his wife, Melanie Sloan, a producer. Showing a precocious interest in acting, Johansson made her professional debut in a 1993 Late Night with Conan O’Brien comedy sketch when she was just eight years old. Her first stage appearance – in Sophistry, an off- Broadway play, which saw her star opposite Ethan “Training Day” Hawke – followed soon after. She was then cast in one of the title roles of Mannie & Lo, a 1996 dramedy telling the tale of two down-on-their-luck sisters.
It was in 2003, though, that Johansson finally landed the two roles that transformed her fortunes – Griet in The Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Charlotte in Lost in Translation, a critically-acclaimed 2003 romantic dramedy. The latter, it seems, was a role she was born to play, with this bittersweet May-December romance opening to near-universal acclaim, while also securing ScarJo – as she has been unwillingly christened by fans – a much-coveted Golden Globe nomination, as well as the Best Actress accolade at that year’s BAFTAs.
This acclaim set her on course for a slew of big-budget starring roles, including Michael Bay’s sci-fi thriller The Island (2005) and Woody Allen’s psychological drama Match Point (2005), as well as such rom-coms as 2007’s The Nanny Diaries, co-starring Chris Evans, the future Captain America.
It was in 2010, though, that she truly entered the big league. Not only did she receive a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Feature Actress in a Play for A View from the Bridge, her Broadway debut, she also won the role that saw her permanently seared into pop culture consciousness – Black Widow, Marvel’s enigmatic assassiness.
Her take on the former Russian spy-turned-superheroine saw her career go – largely – from strength to strength. There were, however, one or two missteps along the way, most notably her appearance in Ghost in the Shell, a 2017 adaptation of a Japanese manga series. The entire production proved highly controversial, largely on account of its almost all-Caucasian cast, with many of them playing roles that were originally written as Asian characters. This, said many, was Hollywood “whitewashing” at its very worst.
Her personal life, meanwhile, has also been subject to several ups and downs. Most notably, after a series of high-profile romances, in 2008, she married Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds, a union that ended in divorce just two years later. She married again in 2014, this time to Romain Dauriac, a French journalist, with whom she has a daughter, Rose Dorothy Dauriac. Three years later, she was once again single.
Reflecting on these painful experiences, she mused: “While I think the idea of marriage is very romantic – it’s a beautiful idea and it can be a beautiful thing – I don’t think it’s natural to be monogamous.” Judging by her recent engagement to actor Colin Jost, though, she’s clearly had a change of heart.
Romantic entanglements aside, there is one particular role that she has already confirmed and which has the world even more intrigued – the return of the Black Widow. Those few of you yet to see Endgame should look away now as a key plot point is about to be discussed.
Given that Natasha Romanov – what the Black Widow calls herself while her lycra is at the dry cleaners – sacrifices herself in the battle to de-Thanos the known universe, how come her debut solo movie has been confirmed as part of Marvel’s Phase IV slate? Sequel, prequel or timey-wimey trickery? Whatever the score, we’ll be there, alongside countless other millions. Don’t forget the popcorn.
Text: Tenzing Thondup