MILD spoilers for “Black Widow” ahead.
“Black Widow” may have been the last hurrah for Natasha Romanoff in the MCU, but it was just the beginning for her family. And if that family is any indication, Phase Four may have more humor that anything we’ve seen in the universe so far — and the film’s director Cate Shortland thinks Marvel should lean into that with a Red Guardian movie.
“Sometimes — not sometimes — often I would be crying with laughter,” Shortland tells TheWrap of working with David Harbour, who brings Red Guardian to life. “And there was so much good stuff that didn’t end up in the film. But I think that’s why Red Guardian needs his own movie. Because it will be so funny.”
Don’t get us wrong, “Black Widow” had its dark moments. From finding out that Natasha killed a little girl to seeing just how traumatic the Red Room was, the movie shined a light on the darkest parts of Natasha’s past. But just as often as it had you in your feels, “Black Widow” would have fans cracking up over Yelena (Florence Pugh) ribbing her sister, or Alexei (David Harbour) exuding peak Dad Energy. And for director Cate Shortland, the balance was crucial — but the beauty was that it was relatively easy to achieve with each character.
“I think what we were truthful to was [Natasha’s] story,” Shortland says. “So it became about how does she rebuild herself? We start with her and she’s really vulnerable. She’s alone. She doesn’t think she deserves to be part of anything really or to be loved. And then the darkness comes from revisiting the past and confronting it in the future. But the light and the levity, I think comes from dealing with family and all those old patterns emerge. And she can’t be Natasha Romanoff the superhero. She becomes Natasha, the sister, the daughter, the petulant sulky teenager again, and that’s kind of fun to watch.”
In fairness, Natasha has more than enough reason to be sulky and petulant. After all, her adopted father calmed her and Yelena down, only so they could be drugged and taken back into the Widow program, and later split up. But that was certainly an interesting aspect for David Harbour. When Marvel pitched the character of Alexei to him, he was drawn in by what he felt was a “desperation” to the character under the humor of him.
“Because he’s so guilty and so ashamed of himself that he builds up this ego and the needs it confirmed from everyone. And out of that comes this dorkiness,” Harbour tells TheWrap. “So even though it is dorky, silliness, it’s grounded in this, like, cringy idea of like, you have to laugh at it, now. You have to laugh, which makes it even more gross and funny at the same time. So it’s all born out of character. But it’s fun. And I gotta say, those women were fun to play with, like, Rachel and Florence and Scarlett are all so to game to like, have a good time, to mess around. So they made it very easy to bring that out in me.”
Indeed, Natasha’s banter with Yelena, and their mutual embarrassment over their “father” Alexei, were some of the shining moments of the film. And according to David Harbour, he improvised a lot of that Santa Claus discussion at the dinner table when Alexei, Malina (Rachel Weisz), Yelena and Natasha reunite. In fact, they improvised more than you might expect for a Marvel movie.
“We did that a lot!” Harbour admits. “There’s a whole other movie too, on the cutting room floor, of like, me and Rachel flirting throughout the movie and various sequences. When she breaks me out of prison and, you know, her stuff with the Taskmaster. I mean, there’s tons of stuff that we improv in this movie. And I think that’s a credit to Cate Shortland, she saw the chemistry between us and she saw sort of our voracious, you know, appetite for these characters and for this world, and she just kind of let us run with it.”
According to Shortland, she actually planned specifically for it. When planning scenes, she and her team would build in extra shooting time, to be used for takes the cast would write and/or improvise themselves.
And yes, David Harbour is 100 percent onboard with the idea of a Red Guardian movie or series.
“People want to see more of this character, I would love to give people more. And I’m glad he’s alive at the end of the movie too,” Harbour says.