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Thank you, Hollywood, for giving Rachel Weisz a superhero movie

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Rachel Weisz

The actress is joining the Marvel cinematic universe, and we are rejoicing.

Rejoice, rejoice: Rachel Weisz is getting the female superhero movie she deserves.

The actress is joining Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow standalone film, Variety reports. She will join Johansson in a role yet to be announced, and will star alongside previously announced castmember Florence Pugh and Stranger ThingsDavid Harbour. Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland is directing, with screenwriter Jac Schaeffer working on the script.

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The news comes fresh from Weisz’s Oscar nomination (and BAFTA win) for her turn in The Favourite

We already know Weisz is a major, awards-nominated acting talent, but we also know that she can handle herself in the fight sequences. She proved as much in The Mummy Returns, the 2002 swashbuckling archaeological adventure flick and as good an advertisement for having a female Indiana Jones as there ever could be. 

Weisz, who does double duty in that movie as archaeologist Evelyn and her distant Ancient Egyptian ancestor Nefertiri, trained seven hours a day for two months to prepare for her breathtaking fight sequences against co-star Patricia Velasquez. In those scenes, Weisz and Velasquez only used body doubles for the trickier acrobatic moves. Otherwise, it was all them.

No matter the character Weisz is going to play in Black Widow – good guy, bad guy, Russian super-spy, Black Widow’s nemesis, whoever – you know that she will be fantastic in the role. 

But who else is starring in Black Widow? And what do we know about Marvel’s next female superhero movie? 

Is Florence Pugh going to be in Black Widow? 

Florence Pugh

Yes she is. And we couldn’t be more excited. 

Did you see Florence Pugh in Fighting With My Family? The British actress was a revelation, fierce and funny and full of heart as Paige, a girl from Norwich who dreamt of becoming a WWE wrestler. This was a movie that contained charisma magnets Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, as himself, and Nick Frost and Lena Header, who played Paige’s deliciously amoral parents, but it was Pugh who shined. I walked out of the cinema dreaming of a superhero movie starring Pugh that might give her the chance to quite literally flex her muscles.

Is Marvel’s president Kevin Feige infiltrating my dreams, Christopher Nolan’s Inception-style? Because today The Hollywood Reporter announced that Pugh was signing on to star in Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Black Widow movie.

For too long, Johansson’s Black Widow was the one woman holding down the fort among the Avengers, but in recent years this has shifted. They have added key female characters, like Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Guardians of the Galaxy’s Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Black Panther’s Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). 

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And then there’s Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, the studio’s first female-led superhero film, which has made an astonishing $760 million (£572 million) in the two weeks since it was released. When it crosses the $1 billion box office mark, which it will do easily, it will prove the point that the future of the superhero cinematic landscape is and should be resplendently female. 

Who is Florence Pugh?

If you are yet to join the Pugh-hive, as I definitely have, here’s a brief bio. The 23-year-old from Oxford is one of the most exciting young acresses of the moment, after receiving rave reviews for her performance in 2016’s Lady Macbeth.

Since then, she has been the best thing about almost everything she has starred in, from the gritty Robert the Bruce Netflix biopic Outlaw King opposite, in my opinion, the Best Hollywood Chris (Pine) to the BBC’s The Little Drummer Girl, in which she played a double, or maybe triple, agent of espionage in the Seventies.

Right now, she’s filming her role as Amy, the low key best of the March sisters in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women alongside Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Meryl Streep. 

Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden in 2019's Fighting With My Family

Florence Pugh in Fighting With My Family

And this summer she will be screaming up a storm in Midsommar, the highly-anticipated new horror movie from Hereditary director Ari Aster, which follows a young couple on holiday in rural Sweden who stumble upon a pagan cult out for blood. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Prestige literary adaptations, cult horror flicks, gritty period dramas, feel-good sporting movies and, now a superhero story? Is there anything Florence Pugh can’t do? 

What is Black Widow about?

Very little is known about the standalone Black Widow movie except that it is long overdue. Johansson’s Black Widow, also known as Natasha Romanoff, entered the Marvel universe in 2010 in Iron Man 2, and has been a key part of several superhero movies since then, more than proving her mettle.

So why has it taken them so long to give Johansson a superhero movie of her own? Why did we have to sit through sequel after sequel of superheroes played by three separate Hollywood Chrises, as well as the origins stories of more fringe characters like Doctor Strange and Ant-Man, before we got an ass-kicking Black Widow movie? 

Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

Who knows. But in 2014 Marvel announced that a Black Widow movie was coming, and though plot details are pretty slim on the ground, we know that it will take place in Russia. Whether or not it will be an origins story is yet to be revealed, but we do know that Natasha was trained to be a super-assassin behind the Iron Curtain, training that left her physically and emotionally scarred.

She only escaped the Soviet Union when Clint Barton (our man Hawkeye with the bow and arrow) was sent to assassinate her. The two formed a bond and teamed up together, which is how Natasha ended up becoming an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. We don’t know whether or not Black Widow will tell the story of young Natasha in Russia or will see the agent returning to her mother country after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron unfold. All we know is that the movie will take place in Russia. 

Who is in the cast of Black Widow?

Johansson, obviously, will reprise her role as the martial arts master Natasha. Pugh is set to join as an unnamed character who will serve as the female co-lead. Her character is described by The Hollywood Reporter as “a spy on the same level” as Natasha, and “her moral opposite”. 

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Aside from Johansson, Pugh, Weisz and Harbour, the rest of the cast is yet to be announced. So in lieu of any further information, let me share with you the best casting tidbit from these movies: Black Widow was originally supposed to be played by Emily Blunt. 

Marvel announced Blunt for the role and everything, before switching to Scarlett Johansson at the last minute. The rest, as they say, is Marvel cinematic universe history. 

Who is the director of Black Widow?

Australian director Cate Shortland will be behind the camera on the Black Widow movie. She comes to the film after a string of tense psychological thrillers, from the Abbie Cornish-starring Somersault to Berlin Syndrome, a movie about a passionate holiday romance that turns abusive. 

Female screenwriter Jac Schaeffer, who wrote the Rebel Wilson/Anne Hathaway action movie The Hustle, has written the script. Filming is slated to begin in London in June 2019.

Is there a trailer for Black Widow?

Not yet. We’ll keep you updated as soon as it is unveiled.

When is Black Widow released?

Again, no release date yet, but we’ll keep you updated as soon as it is announced.

Images: Getty, Marvel

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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