‘Black Widow’ Director Says MCU Film “Hands The Baton” To Florence Pugh

If the world weren’t in chaos right now, we would have already digested Marvel’s Black Widow. Instead, we’ve still got another four months to go before we can see Scarlett Johansson return as the Avengers’ resident Russian spy. But her solo movie isn’t all about her, it’s about her past, and more specifically, it’s about her family. The role of Natasha’s sister Yelena is being played by the red-hot Florence Pugh, and it’s clear there are big plans.

When Pugh was cast as Yelena in Black Widow, fans of the comics immediately suspected this would be a “passing the torch” opportunity. While previous reports have cooled those notions, director Cate Shortland has lit them back up with her recent comments to Empire

“[Kevin Feige] realized that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction. 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 [Johansson] is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”

“Handing her the baton”, eh? In the comics, Yelena was trained at the same Red Room as Natasha, and wanted to take the mantle of Black Widow for herself. While they started as foes, Yelena and Natasha eventually became reluctant allies, with Natasha often referring to her as “little one.”  

Shortland also talks about Natasha’s controversial death in Avengers: Endgame, and why her lack of a funeral was appropriate and something that actually fit with what she’s doing in Black Widow

“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. 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.”

Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.