When Scarlett Johansson heard there might be a suitable role for her in Iron Man 2 she actively pursued it, and got it. She portrays Natalie Rushman, a sexy new employee at Stark Industries who Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) immediately appoints as his new assistant.
But unbeknownst to him or Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has been promoted to CEO of the company, Natalie is there for a specific reason, which the audience finds out has to do with her alter ego, Black Widow.
Were you a fan of the first movie?
When Iron Man came out my mom saw the film and loved it. I thought, ‘Wow, my mom doesn’t know anything about comics and if the film spans a wide age demographic then it must be really good.’
I went to see the film and was blown away by the story and how charming it was.
The action was great, but it also was romantic, funny, clever and witty. It was just a great film. So when I heard that there was a possible part in the second installment, I was all over it and determined to being in the film.
Talk a little about your character of Natalie.
This character could have been the temptress that comes in and tries to break up the foundation of Tony’s world, but she has a specific motivation, which adds a little bit of spark between the characters.
She knows something about Tony that Pepper doesn’t know and that in itself contributes a certain dynamic that goes deeper than just sexual chemistry and tension.
What was it like wearing the Black Widow costume?
I knew it was going to be some kind of sexy unitard, because I had researched the character in the comics.
I’ve never worn anything like it before, so I had a freak-out moment that lasted about half a day, but then I said, ‘Okay, time to suck it up,’ and just went full force into getting in shape to wear the costume and perform the physical actions so it looked just right.
How much preparation did you do?
Black Widow is an expert in hand-to-hand combat, she’s a mixed martial artist, has a dance and gymnastics background, so she combines all of these aspects into one kick-ass fighting machine.
So I dedicated myself to putting in the hours, repetitions and training with the stunt team until I felt comfortable that I could sell each particular move.
I’m very sensitive about when you see an action sequence and the shot is on the back of somebody’s head, and then all of the sudden it cuts and the actor gives that one dramatic pose at the end and it’s obvious that it was not them in the shot before.
It’s the lamest thing, because you want to see the actor risking their own life, and that is part of what sells it to an audience. So that’s why I worked for months to prepare and I really didn’t want to be perceived as a little wuss who couldn’t do it.
How hard was it to learn the choreography?
When I first saw it completed and choreographed by the stunt team, I just thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know how I’m going to do this.’
But then I took a deep breath and, with all the training and repetitions we put in during rehearsals, it just started to flow and it became a reality as I was doing it.
It was a lot of fun for me to work with all the people Tommy Harper (Stunt Coordinator) assembled because they are some of the greatest stunt guys out there and were so incredibly supportive.
It was very frustrating at times, which I am sure you will see on the DVD, but I think we really nailed it and when Tommy Harper says you got it, then I know we got it and it will be great fun to watch.
What was it like working with Jon Faveau?
I have always felt that actors make the best directors and he has such a great way of communicating with actors. We had a nice rapport between us and he’s so open to suggestions.
Obviously he has an improv background and I think he directs in a similar manner.
He’s always willing to just throw a line out to you and see what you can do with it. He’s very malleable and we found these scenes sort of blossoming even more as we shot.
Your character is suave and smart in this film. You’re not just a sex symbol.
Well, I’ve never really seen a film of this genre where the female characters’ sex appeal came second. Of course, they’re sexy characters.
When you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit, that’s innately sexy. But, the fact is that these characters are intelligent, ambitious, motivated and calculated, to some degree.
Jon really made it very clear, in the beginning, that as far as Black Widow, or Natalie, was concerned, she was mysterious and nuanced and something to peel back the layers to.
He wanted there to be something there. I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me, as an audience member.
I’ve never really been a huge fan of this genre, and I think that’s because it was always one-note and very explosive. I think because Gwyneth and I are able to be the brains behind the operation, in some aspect, there’s a happy medium there that adds to the charm and charisma of the finished product.
It’s oddly old-fashioned, in the best sense of the word. These characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the Golden Age of Hollywood. More Bette Davis than Jane Mansfield, which I think is so much more dynamic to watch.
What are you thoughts about the movie now that it’s ready to open?
All the characters in this film are so relatable and the story is so charming and that makes it a really fun adventure. Marvel always does a great job making the stories of their films accessible to everyone, even if you’ve never read a comic book.
It’s been an amazing experience for me and the cast I got to work with.