We made banana bread. We rode stationary bikes. We Zoomed for hours. It’s time to go back to the movies. And if there’s anyone on the planet who’s more excited to be back in a movie theater than you, it’s Black Widow director Cate Shortland. Her Scarlett Johansson-led film is Marvel’s first theatrical release in two years and the first cinematic experience of the MCU's Phase Four. It was also delayed multiple times from its original planned debut of May 2020 because of the pandemic. Seeing as how Black Widow’s been ready to be released into the world for quite some time, you'd better believe this director will have a popcorn tub the size of Thanos come July 9th when the film finally premieres. And after speaking with her, we get why.

With tickets for Black Widow on sale now at Fandango, we spoke with Cate Shortland about the movie’s action, heart and why its delay may actually have been a blessing in disguise all along — especially for the viewers. We also learned just how different it is from other MCU movies and which one it’s most like. (Any guesses?)

But wait, there’s more! Fandango also has an exclusive clip from the movie (including aforementioned action) called “In Pursuit,” below. In it is a peek at Johansson (Natasha) and Florence Pugh’s (Yelena) butt-kicking sequences and stunts — most of which were actually performed by the two actors, according to Shortland, who also gave insight into the scene and, dare we say, a little teaser.

Although this Avenger made the ultimate sacrifice in 2019’s Avengers Endgame, she’s back. And given all that Black Widow’s been through, and all that we’ve been through, she may just be the post-pandemic heroine whose solo film is right on time. 

Check out the exclusive scene below, followed by our exclusive conversation with director Cate Shortland.

 

Fandango: You have a big month coming up!

Cate Shortland: I know! So excited.

 

Fandango: This is not only the first Marvel movie in theaters in two years, but post-COVID — or at least in the out-of-COVID transition. What does this moment mean to you? Nerves? Excitement? How are you feeling?

Cate Shortland: I think the most beautiful part of it is that we get to celebrate. For me, it's about celebrating, because we finished the film and we were all in different cities, and were working remotely. And we never, ever got a chance to celebrate the film. I feel like now we can just finally... it's real. And it's exciting. And I just want to watch it with an audience.

 

Fandango: You did not make any changes to the film's cut even though you knew that the movie was getting pushed back. In a world of Instagram and filtering and tweaking, that takes serious willpower. Talk to me about that decision. Were you ever tempted to go back and tweak anything?

Cate Shortland: We worked really, really hard as a team for Kevin Feige. The editors, special effects, the composer. We worked really hard at the end, making sure the film was what we wanted it to be. Scarlett's a producer so she was really involved in that. And by the end, we were really happy with our choices. And we felt we wanted the ending to be really heartfelt. We believe it is. Of course, there's moments where you want to, you know, add more sauce to something. But sometimes I think it's good just to leave it.

 

Fandango: We know that this movie stands apart from some other MCU films because it's darker. It's a bit grittier. Talk to me about that creative call. 

Cate Shortland: I think it's, in some ways, darker. But it's got a lot of love in it. And I think that lifts that and a lot of humor so we weren't ever on the fence. What we knew was the film was going to dictate what it wanted to be, and that comes from Black Widow. She's incredibly nuanced. She's frightened to show the world who she truly is. But once you see that beautiful heart, you're sort of intoxicated by it. And that's kind of what we wanted the film to be. 

 

Fandango: That said, is there any movie outside of the MCU that you perhaps pulled inspiration from or that you would compare it to?

Cate Shortland: First, we looked at things like No Country for Old Men. And then we looked at things like Thelma and Louise. And the Marvel film — people that have seen it have said it reminds them of it — [is] Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

Fandango: Cool. What about it? 

Cate Shortland: It's got great action. It's got a lot of heart, it's emotional. And at times, it can be a little bit dark, but then it opens up again. And it's really exciting. So I think that's like this film. This film has fantastic action sequences, which we're really proud of.

 

Fandango: Speaking of the action, this piece will have an exclusive action scene called "In Pursuit." Can you tell us a little bit about what's going on? Who's chasing them and why did that one girl seem to sacrifice herself?

Cate Shortland: Natasha and Yelena are being pursued by a widow. It's another widow. And I can't give away too much. But that widow is not absolutely in control of everything she's doing.

 

Fandango: After visiting the set, I've seen that a sequence like this could be on screen for a few minutes but actually take days to shoot. How long did this scene take to create in real life?

Cate Shortland: With the planning and the setting up for the stunts? Probably three weeks. The visual effects, the editing, maybe longer. Probably the shooting was four days, for just the rooftop chase.

Fandango: You said you're really proud of the action. Did this scene actually take place on a rooftop? What was it like? How much of their own stunts did the women perform?

Cate Shortland: We were on rooftops shooting that in Budapest. And we worked with this legion of amazing stunt women. But Scarlett and Florence did a lot of their own stunts. Scarlett does as much as she can. And then Florence say, when Florence went to Morocco, and she shot for two days she did 90% of her own stunts. So they were both really into it. And I think because Florence was watching Scarlett and seeing how much Scarlett tries to do, it influenced her. It's pretty cool. Scarlett does quite a lot. 

 

Fandango: With that said, I want to bring it back to Thelma and Louise, which just had its 30th anniversary and was so revolutionary. Watching this scene reminded me of that movie because you see these women with weapons and guns and it's kind of foreign to the eye because we're not really used to seeing women in those roles. Did you actually pull from Thelma and Louise, and what would be similar and different for audiences?

Cate Shortland: I looked at a lot of combat films and a lot of stuff where we were looking at armies and militia. And then, I put females in those roles. So we weren't necessarily used to seeing women in those roles. And it was really exciting. And it was exciting too because we had women from all over the world. And we had women who were African, American, French Norwegian, who not only were our stunt women, but also our widows. Because most widows had an accompany stuntwoman that looks like them. So if we've got 15 widows or 20 widows, we've got 20 stuntwomen.

 

Fandango: Literally like an army, kind of like Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)“ video.

Cate Shortland: Yeah, yeah!

 

Fandango: Black Widow will have themes around women, either trying to fit into a certain mold or be a certain way, perhaps women being abused. So it's interesting to see the fusion of these topics with such a huge blockbuster superhero universe. With the movie about to be out in the world, is that something you anticipate audiences to be talking about?

Cate Shortland: That is what was really liberating, I think, because we had such a strong team and a lot of that stuff we could deal with, with humor. Because I think that's how women deal with a lot of the injustices in our lives. We will power through, but when we're speaking to each other, we often will make jokes about the patriarchy, because that's how we undermine it. And that's how we assert our power. So, that's what we're watching the girls do in the film as well. And it's really beautiful, because even when they're talking about their own bodies, the way that they take back the power is through humor. Even though these terrible things have been done to them, they're not going to let it put them down, and they're not going to let it take the joy from their lives. And I think women, and a lot of men, are going to respond to that, because it's heroic.

Fandango: We almost need that humor, because it's a heavy time. And we're getting railed with messages all the time. I feel like if you do it in an authentic or funny way or with heart, like you're saying, that's almost more effective. 

Cate Shortland: I think that's how we talk, isn't it? Like, we will always be making jokes about the dominant culture. The culture underneath that will always pull jokes or make jokes. Because that's how we hold on, otherwise you'll just be trampled down. 

 

Fandango: Switching gears a little bit. This film is interesting because it's billed as a prequel, but it's also the first movie of the MCU's Phase 4. Can you tease how it may connect to current Marvel movies or ones in the future?

Cate Shortland: I think what's exciting is this whole legion of new characters is going to be unleashed. And I think what's really exciting too, is there's an ambiguity about those characters. So, whereas the, say, original legion was fairly black and white, I think some of these characters who are going to come to the fore have got a darkness in them. And that's interesting, because that's not something that we're used to seeing as well. In some ways, it's more complex. Some of the characters are more difficult. But I think what people want is change. I don't think we can keep watching the same thing. And I think Kevin is very aware of that, I think he not only is switching it up with cultures and adding different voices, [but] what he's also doing is adding different perspectives on the world.

 

Fandango: After such a hard year, why do people need this right now? What will they take away from it walking out of the theater?

Cate Shortland: This is about a family coming back together after being separated. It's absolutely indicative of what many of us have been through in the last year and a half well, what feels like five years. I think what's beautiful is the idea of a community coming back together family, friends, community, an audience and we can share something together when we've all been sort of separated. And I think that's what we're all really excited about the people that made the movie.

 

Fandango: Interestingly enough, earlier, when you were talking about Natasha’s journey and showing who she really is, I feel that's also how a lot of people are going to feel right now re-entering the world.

Cate Shortland: It's really beautiful seeing Scarlett in this role, because Natasha is really unsure. And she's really vulnerable. And it's by rejoining this family and having to deal with all her sh*t, that she becomes whole again.

 

Fandango: Maybe it's a blessing in disguise that the movie got pushed to this time, because what a message for people to see right now. After being isolated and needing to be part of something, I'm sure many people will relate.

Cate Shortland: But also you come back to your family, and you have all these ideas about what it's going to be like, but then you're still all reliving that Christmas when you were 12. You know, Passover, when you were nine, and grandma wouldn't give you the puppy or whatever. So it's like, all those old wounds and traumas open up again. And I think that's interesting now too about us all coming back together. Because maybe we're all going to be a little bit more forgiving of each other. And maybe we're going to hopefully appreciate each other a little more. And, yeah, enjoy each other.

 

Fandango: Absolutely. And the moviegoing experience, too. I hope that you have the world's biggest popcorn when you get to see your movie soon.

Cate Shortland: I cannot wait! Seriously. Honestly, I cannot wait to be sitting in a cinema with an audience watching this movie. And what's really great for me is no one will know who I am! [Laughs] I can just go and just absolutely enjoy it anonymously. And enjoy being back in that in that space. I think we're all longing for it. 

 

Black Widow arrives in theaters on July 9. You can grab your tickets right here at Fandango.