In January 2009, Variety reported that Emily Blunt was in negotiations to play Russian Natasha Romanoff in Iron Man 2.
The character in the comics is a Soviet spy trained in sniping and martial arts, and who wears a special suit that turns her into the Black Widow, and endows her with super powers. According to Variety, Black Widow would be one of Iron Man’s adversaries.
Mere weeks later, though, it was reported that 20th Century Fox might action a contract that would prevent Blunt from taking the part. The studio wanted the actress to star in Gulliver’s Travels for them, and the March shoot of both projects would have clashed.
As doubt was rallied, Eliza Dushku made a (albeit light-hearted) play for the role when she appeared on the Howard Stern Show. She said:
“They’re doing Iron Man 2, and I’m so perfect for the Black Widow character, that they just need to get into it. They need to understand… I just learned Russian because I had to play a Russian girl in Dollhouse.”
By February 2009 it was official: Emily Blunt was out, and within weeks it was confirmed that Scarlett Johansson had taken on the part. Apparently Johansson originally screen tested for the role alongside Blunt, but lost out to the Brit.
Favreau admits that “the jury was out on Scarlett for a while. A lot of people were like, 'Really? Her hair's wrong, she's not the right build, she's not...' And, then she transformed herself and - I mean, she really did the work.”
“Scarlett changed the dynamic between Robert and Gwyneth,” the director reveals. “One of the traps you don’t want to fall into is just repeating the same dynamics and turn it into Hart To Hart.
“You don’t want it to be Moonlighting. You don’t want to have the same thing over and over again. It’s not a television series but I don't know that you would like it for these guys.”
Downey Jr goes on to elaborate on Black Widow’s role in the film, and how she differs to other filmic femme fatales.
“We essentially started off saying it’s a love triangle,” the actor says. “And then we realized that love triangle is done in these superhero movies, all the time. What we wanted to do was something just a little bit freakier than that, and I believe we have succeeded.
“Black Widow is a great character because she is not what she appears to be.”
Meanwhile, Samuel L Jackson struck a nine picture deal with Marvel to play Nick Fury in various superhero films. The actor appeared as Detective Fury in a post-credit sequence of the first Iron Man, discussing his desire to instigate the ‘Avenger Initiative’, a sly nod to The Avengers.
Jackson will show up with a bigger role in Iron Man 2, while reportedly making appearances in Thor, Captain America, The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D.
As well as Jackson’s deal, Marvel enlisted Garry Shandling to play Senator Stern, while also signing Kate Mara. Clark Gregg jumped back into his role as Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.
And, in a bizarre bit of reporting that could only have come from the Daily Mail, returning player Gwyneth Paltrow was rumoured to be filming a “risqué scene”.
A supposed insider told the newspaper: “Iron Man imagines Pepper in a dominatrix outfit. Gwyneth had to be filmed in a very revealing black leather corset complete with a bullwhip.” No confirmation or denial of that one yet.