Comic Book Casting: The BLACK WIDOW Live-Action Movie

BlackWidow2Every Monday here at iFanboy, we look at comics’ greatest characters and stories and try to imagine what they’d be like in film or television. From the story concept to the people in charge and all the way down to who’d play who, we do it every Monday and we call it Comic Book Casting.

In this week’s installment of Comic Book Casting, we look at one of the two odd men out (or women, in this case) from the heroes featured in last year’s The Avengers movie: Black Widow. Like her close friend and confidante Hawkeye, they’re out in the cold when it comes to serious talk of a movie.  Back in 2004, Lions Gate had announced they were working on something for her with screenwriter David Hayter, but that project died on the vine soon after. But now with the Russian expat experiencing her highest degree of popularity even, now is the time to do it.

The Concept:

Although she’s never had the benefit of a long-term ongoing series, the Black Widow has had an excellent back-story built up through the decades via mini-series, short lived ongoings and roles in other books. Woven together, it has all the makings of a great James Bond meets Bourne Identity style thriller with more than a bit of Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita.

Imagine this: a young girl named Natasha Romanoff is born in Stalnigrad, Russia during the dying years of the U.S.S.R. As a new era in Russian history begins to emerge, some of the old guard aim to secure their place in the impending era by dusting off a mothballed Soviet program called the Red Room from the 40s and 50s intended to copy the America’s vaunted Super Soldier program. In this new era, an ex-Russian military officer named Ivan Petrovich is tasked to abduct, insert and guide the young Romanoff through the harrowing Red Room indoctrination and be her handler on the other side.

After growing up in the Red Room program alongside other children her age such as the characters who would later become the Winter Guard — the Red Guardian, Darkstar and Ursa Major — Natasha has a bittersweet graduation and enters her preordained life as Russia’s premiere assassin, codenamed Black Widow. Still guided by Petrovich, she begins to rebel and he reigns her in while feeling pangs of remorse as her surrogate father. After one mission takes her over the line, Black Widow rebels from Russia’s grip and fends off the grasp of her former friends, the Winter Guard. Luckily, she has a little help.

I’m no Hollywood screenwriter, but I think there’s a wealth of material to be capitalized on here. Between her harrowing upbringing to the cool factor of espionage, intrigue and suspense — with some high-tech gadgetry, of course — this could be a different kind of super-hero movie that hits into the nerve of films like the aforementioned James Bond and Bourne Identity.

The Director:

There’s a host of potential directors out there who’d do a great job making a spy movie, but what Black Widow needs is a great spy movie with heart. For this, I’d get veteran screenwriter and director Paul Haggis. Haggis, a veteran TV writer, made his break on the big screen writing Million Dollar Baby and went on to be an A-list screenwriter, doing Casino Royale and a rewrite on Terminator: Salvation. At the same time, Haggis debuted as a director with 2004’s Crash and followed it with the underrated In The Valley of Elah.

The Cast:

Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff – Scarlett Johansson: It’s a bit of a no brainer, huh? Luckily for Marvel, they cast Black Widow with someone who can not only play great in ensemble pieces, but someone who has the potential to carry her own.

Ivan Petrovitch – Ian McShane: I think McShane is one of my favorite people to cast in these Comic Book Casting pieces I’ve done, but after hemming and hawing on this I still think he’d be great as Natasha’s surrogate father, Ivan. He can be fatherly, but he can also be damn gruff and militant tying into Petrovitch’s past.

Red Guardian / Alexei Shostakov – Konstantin Khabensky: Red Guardian is often overlooked in Black Widow’s past (and at Marvel at large), but he’s Russian’s patriotic hero and the one-time husband of Natasha in her early life. Shostakov had an interesting life, as a test pilot and KGB agent before becoming the Red Guardian and Black Widow’s spouse. For a movie, I’d make him a bit of a national hero — a Yuri Gagarin, of sorts — who goes from trusted confidante to uneasy enemy for Natasha. Khabensky is a complete unknown to most outside Russia, but he’s one of the country’s top actors. Khabensky appeared in both Night Watch and Day Watch, and that director enlisted him to play the Exterminator in Wanted a few years back. Khabensky went on to play a small role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2011, and he stuck in my mind ever since.

Darkstar / Laynia Petrovna – Sophie Turner: This Game of Thrones actress is growing into something quite unique, and seeing her step into the role of Russian’s flaxen-haired mutant would be a great role for her. With a bit of screenwriting flair, Darkstar could be slid to be a childhood rival of Natasha in the Red Room program and growing into a full-fledged super soldier as Darkstar.

Ursa Major / Mikhail Uriokovitch Ursus – Doug Jones:  Seriously, why hasn’t Marvel done more with Ursa Major? He’s a Russian bear-man. How could the likes of Doctor Doom or Magneto stand up to that? Well, now’s there chance. I’d plug veteran special effects actor Doug Jones into the mix playing Ursa Major and lending some special effects laden, 1000+ pounds of furry, angry violence to the movie. Seeing the unpowered Black Widow face off against Ursa when she rebels could be a memorable scene in itself.

The Winter Soldier / James “Bucky” Barnes – Sebastian Stan: You didn’t think I’d forget Bucky and Natasha’s escapades when dealing with a Black Widow origin movie, did you? Although they look to be crossing paths in 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier, I’d hazard to say there’s more story to be told and Bucky could be a great surprise cameo and helping hand for Natasha. Heck, he could be the reason the Red Room was mothballed in the 50s and could be Natasha’s unlikely inside man to help get her out.


  1. A nice thought, but I read some interview somewhere in which a Marvel Entertainment bigwig mentioned that the past mission mentioned by Hawkeye and Black Widow in Avengers had never been told and that they may want to tell it at some point. In other words, it would be a Hawkeye AND Black Widow movie, so you need Jeremy Renner in your list. =P

    • Ever since I saw The Avengers, I’ve been thinking that a Hawkeye & Black Widow film would be a great idea. Maybe toss in Mockingbird for some romantic tension and it’d be a fun time . . .

  2. I think that a Black Widow film would have a lot of potential; plus it would help break the conception of comic books as a men’s only club. But please not Paul Haggis. I hated his screenplays for Million Dollar Baby and Crash. Actually, I hated pretty much everything about Crash . . .

  3. Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff – Scarlett Johansson

    ugh, please recast! She is one of the worst things in these movies!

  4. I always wanted to see a Milla Jovovich Black Widow.

  5. Damn, @cosmo @ JokersNuts and @ CharlieRock: both Cosmo comments are half of what I was thinking then between you other two, I love Scarlett & Milla so that creates internal debate but have to say for the sake of keeping the Marvel film universe connected, I’d stick w Scarlett, she’s beautiful, trained hard and did many hard stunts most wouldn’t assume and she’s capable of much more depth and dramatic acting a Natasha solo flick would require. Milla would be solid though and probably do a better Russian accent (The jury’s still out on that one). Mockibird would be great along with the aforementioned. I’d love to see a serious take on this movie full of espionage & intrigue. Deadly assassins, heroes, villains and sex appeal with these characters with a Bond MI6 or MI13/S.H.I.E.L.D. feel would be a nice addition to the movie cannon and maybe attract some people not as interested in the typical hero archetypes show an edgier side to the Marvel U, while opening doors to a whole other phase or wave direction to go in.