Category: Hollywood Movies
Black Widow never has it easy. Onscreen, Natasha Romanov has an agonizing backstory and is working like hell to do enough good to erase the red from her moral ledger, redeeming a history of bad deeds that we are only allowed to imagine with acts of heroism that defy belief.
Offscreen, much of what Scarlett Johansson’s character does is scrutinized through the lens of gender politics. As one of the few female protagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (until recently), some view her not just as an individual character but as a representative for all womankind. That’s heavy lifting even for a superhero.
Amid accusations that her story arc in Avengers: Age of Ultron was stereotyped and offensive — because, like Tony Stark, she expressed a desire to step back from saving the world (and maybe find someone in it to love, and love her back) — Black Widow became a lightning rod.
Some accused writer-director Joss Whedon of sexism for a storyline that involved Widow developing romantic feelings for Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner in the comic-book version of the Beauty and the Beast folktale. Others were outraged that Widow expressed regret over the juvenile assassin program that forced her to be sterilized. Still others took offense at that complaint, saying the desire to have a family doesn’t mean a woman can’t have a career (beating the hell out of evildoers, or otherwise).
NPR’s pop culture critic Linda Holmes astutely noted that even if you swapped out Widow’s story in Ultron with the arcs of any of her male co-Avengers, each would still “raise questions of whether the story was influenced by gender stereotypes.” If she was Iron Man, she’d be the problem-causer. If she was Captain America, she’d be the uptight one. If she was Hulk, she’d have out-of-control emotions. And so on …
Add to that the scarcity of Black Widow toys, which caused universal uproar, even from Ruffalo, who tweeted about the need for Marvel merchandising to do a better job of inviting young girls to play in this universe, and Natasha Romanov starts to emerge not just as a warrior but a battlefield.
Which brings us to Captain America: Civil War. Where does Natasha’s fifth appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe find her?
This time, she’s on the side of order, aligning — at least for a while — with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man in trying to get Captain America to honor the global Sokovia Accords that force “enhanced individuals” to operate under government control.
In one scene EW watched being filmed this summer, she and Tony Stark have a quiet moment after being given an ultimatum to bring down the rogue Cap — or else the U.S. government will do it in permanent fashion.
Stark rubs at the center of his chest, where his ARC reactor was once embedded. “You know the problem with a fully functional heart…? It’s stressful,” he tells Natasha.
Scarlett Johansson Interview
During a break in filming, we caught up with Johansson, and asked what she thinks of the tug-of-war over her character.
During a break in filming, we caught up with Johansson, and asked what she thinks of the tug-of-war over her character.
Where is Natasha’s head these days? In what state do we find her after the events of Age of Ultron?
Scarlett Johansson: My gosh, this is like a therapy session! When we last saw her I think the stakes were astronomical. And she basically had to make this choice between [duty] and what she probably deserves. I think up until this point, she has put the hours in and is ready for…
To be, or not to be, an Avenger?
[Laughs] You know, I don’t think she’s ever aspired to become an Avenger. That’s not really a choice that she made. It’s kind of like the events in her life led her to that point and when we see her [in Civil War], she’s finally capable of making a choice for herself. Which is kind of a milestone in someone’s life when they’ve not really participated in the decisions that were made for them. She’s finally at a place where she’s going, “Okay, I actually kind of know what I want. And I think I kind of deserve it.”
But she’s still in the fight. So is that what she wants?
Unfortunately the events that took place … she has this kind of greater calling and this huge pull towards doing what’s right for the greater good. And she chooses that, and it’s a really heroic thing that she does, I think.
Widow appeared to be leading the team of new Avengers we saw at the end of Ultron, gathered at their headquarters.
Yeah, I don’t know if she’s leading this team but she’s certainly, she’s — I think Natasha’s a very strategic thinker and that’s her strongpoint. Her superpowers, if you want to call them that, are her experience, her ability to make usually the right decision in a quick moment, in a tight minute. And she’s not personally invested. I mean, that’s what she tells herself anyway. And so that keeps her head kind of level and clear.
She seems to be leaning strongly toward Iron Man’s side of things.
I think when you find her in Civil War, she’s looking to strategize her position, putting herself in a place where she is able to let the powers that be fight it out or whatever amongst themselves. She’s always a little bit on the perimeter so she can have a better perspective of what’s really going on.
Collider recently spoke with Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo and they chatted about doing a standalone Black Widow film. They both endorse it, with Anthony saying, “It’s a no-brainer, right?” and Joe adding, “I don’t think [it’ll take] much. I think it’s just a function of where on the slate it goes. She’s a badass.”
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow first arrived in theaters in Iron Man 2 and since then has become a mainstay of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, despite other Avengers stars like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and even Ant-Man getting time to shine, it appears Black Widow will get a decade of Marvel movies under her belt without ever getting her own spotlight. And she’s helped save the world, like, four times.
In Tales From the Script, X-Men writer David Hayter said he was working on a Black Widow movie, set into motion during a successful run of female action flicks like Kill Bill, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil.
But when the studios followed this trend with a run of awful films, including Aeon Flux, they decided to pull the plug on a Black Widow film. Imagine if they stopped making male action hero films just because of Green Lantern or X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
Besides, Scarlett Johansson is a big moneymaker. Other than Samuel L. Jackson, she has by the far the best box-office totals of any other Avengers star. And she has already proven that she can headline an action film by herself — Lucy opened on the same day in 2014 as Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules and earned $15 million more, despite being R-rated. Moviegoers have proven they are happy to see a good action movie with a female lead — Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Sicario, and Spy are just a few recent examples. And The Hunger Games franchise has made more than $2 billion.
Putting aside the business of moviemaking, there are artistic reasons to make a Black Widow film, not least of all: She’s an interesting character. There are various origin stories, but basically she was trained to be an assassin and is a villainous character before she finds redemption through the Avengers — a story that would be a nice addition to Marvel’s slate.
We’re going to have to wait until 2018 to get a movie with a female hero in the title, and even then the Wasp is sharing it with Ant-Man. It won’t be until 2019 that we get our first true female lead, Captain Marvel. Yet a character we all know and like played by a huge movie star who has already stated interest in giving it a go, only gets to be a supporting character.
There is a wild gender imbalance in comic book movies, and while one Black Widow movie won’t solve this problem, it’s a step in the right direction.
“We have a character — the Black Panther — that they’re going to do as movie. I think he’ll be very popular.”
That was what Stan Lee told me a year ago when talking about his roster of classic comic-book characters being adapted to the big screen. This week, Black Panther makes a spectacular entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War.
Played by Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up), Black Panther is the formidable alter ego of T’Challa, prince of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He is a compassionate diplomat with a righteous streak who inherits the mantle of the Panther from his father, King T’Chaka, and becomes a key ally of Iron Man in the confrontation between Avengers factions.
While Panther might be new to casual fans, the character is considered an iconic figure in comics history, who’s in the midst of a renaissance as he marks his 50th anniversary. With the hero playing such a key role in Civil War and with his own stand-alone film looming in February 2018, it’s worth taking a brief look at T’Challa’s curriculum vitae with insight from those who know him best.
Created by Lee and illustrator Jack Kirby, Black Panther was the first mainstream black superhero, debuting before Falcon or Luke “Power Man” Cage. “I had some super characters before [that were black], but the Black Panther was the first one we devoted an entire book to,” Lee recalled. “He first appeared in Fantastic Four and then he became an Avenger. Then we gave him his own book.”
Billed, in typical Lee understatement, as the “surprise sensation of the century,” T’Challa made his Marvel premiere in issue 52 of Fantastic Four in July 1966. He immediately established himself as one of the great intellects in Marvel-dom, matching wits with fellow brain Mr. Fantastic by putting the superhero quartet through a series of tests before deeming them worthy.
The Panther would eventually split his time between his homeland of Wakanda and his work alongside the Avengers. At one point, Black Panther became Black Leopard to avoid confusion with the nascent political party, which launched five months after the Panther appeared on the scene. (The Black Panthers’ name was completely coincidental and not based on the character.) But the new moniker didn’t stick because, according to Lee, fans and writers preferred “Panther.”
Those early comic books teased out the hero’s origin. The hidden country of Wakanda is ruled by T’Chaka and is the sole source of the prized metal Vibranium, the super-stuff Captain America’s shield is made out of. The sinister Ulysses Klaw murders the king in an attempt to score the precious element, but is driven off by the teenaged T’Challa.
The heir passes a series of tests to become the new Black Panther, wearing the signature black costume with the ritual toothed necklace and gaining possession of a special herb that enhances his already preternatural cat-like abilities. Under T’Challa’s rule, Wakanda flourishes and becomes an advanced technological society.
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done an amazing job of transitioning many of their characters from the page to the screen, several have gone through some significant changes in making the leap. The character who may have seen the most change from page to screen is Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, who went through a fairly substantial physical transformation. The actress says the traditional look for the character was never going to happen. Joss Whedon promised her that from day one.
Appearing on Late Night with Seth Meyers in advance of this weekend’s Captain America: Civil War, the host asked Elizabeth Olsen about the more traditional look of the character. Apparently, Olsen was not previously familiar with the character when Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon presented it to her, but he promised her one thing:
[Joss] said, ‘When you go home and Google her, just know you will never ever have to wear what she wears in the comics.’ Because I did ballet growing up, but that’s not a confident look.
While all of the characters in the MCU have their ornate and somewhat bizarre outfits, most of them tend to make some sense. A couple of the guys wear giant suits of armor. The guy with the shield is a soldier. It’s difficult to argue that Wanda Maximoff’s clothing choice was particularly functional. It looks amazing as a piece of art on a comic page, there’s no question about that, but they would have had to have come up with a pretty convincing argument for why the character would choose to dress like that. It’s just not the sort of thing one would wear on a battlefield.
Wednesday 27 April was Administrative Professionals’ Day, formerly National Secretaries Day – an annual celebration begun in the US in 1952. A heavily gendered date, it is traditionally an opportunity for florists and chocolatiers. But this year, a movie grabbed a slice of the pie. That movie was Ghostbusters, the forthcoming reboot of the beloved supernatural comedy that sees Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon don the jumpsuits once worn by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.
In Ivan Reitman’s 1984 original, the secretary was Janine: goggle glasses, pixie cut, questionable telephone manner (“Waddya want?”). In Paul Feig’s version, it’s Kevin: a ditzy blond hired for his hunkiness not his shorthand. The clips released to coincide with Administrative Professionals’ Day – Kevin baffled by the phone, botching the tea run, eagerly drafting inappropriate logos (think busty ghosts) – brilliantly showcase the gender flip that is one of the movie’s key USPs.
The step-change can still leave you giddy. Twelve months ago, Chris Hemsworth, the actor who plays Kevin, was in every multiplex as Thor, he of the unreconstructed chivalry and massive mallet. Off screen, we were still in the early days of the gender inequality debate – sparked the previous winter by the revelation that Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her American Hustle co-stars, and stoked by Patricia Arquette, who called for pay parity in her Oscar acceptance speech.
The debate faded a little as other industry inequalities took the spotlight, but it still smoulders on, , and reignited recently by Daniel Radcliffe and Scarlett Johansson. “The thing I can’t help but think,” said Radcliffe, “is what guy is sitting in a studio somewhere thinking, ‘Let’s fuck the girls out of some money?’” New studies revealed only one in five European films is directed by a woman – and all movies being made by two major Hollywood studios (Sony and Paramount) over the next two years will be directed by men.
Yet the schedules tell a different story: although most women may still be getting a rough deal backstage, at the cinema, female films are front-and-centre. Not just that. These are female-led films that don’t just feature women mopping up after one another’s heartbreaks, but exploring their own careers and, crucially, their friendships with each other.
So we have the return of Bolly bezzies Edwina and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie; Tina Fey and Margot Robbie bonding beneath the bombs in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot; Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny cackling happily in Love & Friendship, Greta Gerwig snuggling with one-time love-rival Julianne Moore in Maggie’s Plan; Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell swapping horror stories in Bad Moms, and Bell (again) enjoying a slow-burn buddy-up with Melissa McCarthy (again) in The Boss.
That final film opened in the US a month ago. Despite tepid reviews, it still proved victorious over Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at the box office. Tina Fey can get a farce set in a contemporary warzone greenlit. McCarthy has star wattage enough to put even superheroes in the shade.
The mother of these major summer movies is, of course, Ghostbusters. Anticipation for that reached fever pitch months ago, around the release of its first trailer, which has now been seen more than 60m times. This is a movie on which much rides. Its success would be a game-changer. Its failure would turn back the clock on much of the progress made so far.
So who ya gonna call to find out how this kind of responsibility feels? Down the line from Los Angeles, Feig doesn’t sound too fussed. He has been here before, after all: with box office-crushing Bridesmaids (2011) – still the best-performing Judd Apatow movie (he produced it) – and then at two-yearly intervals with The Heat (2013), the first truly funny female buddy cop movie, and Spy (2015), in which McCarthy out-ballsed James Bond.
Yes, Feig says, “managing and meeting and exceeding expectations” is a challenge. “But I would hope we weren’t being made the test case for whether women can star in tentpoles or not. That kind of litmus test just wouldn’t be fair to women. If a movie starring a man comes out and bombs, people just think the movie didn’t work. They don’t say: “‘Oh, well, OK! No more men in movies!’”
But the fact that the film business does still react like this stems, he thinks, from its creation of a mythology to support the status quo. “Which is: men won’t go to see these movies starring women. Hollywood’s always looking for a way to get out of a risky situation and if people are still considering movies starring women to be risky – well, that’s very unfair to the women.”
When he was starting out, Feig says, he would pitch a project with a female lead, only to be told it wasn’t an option because: “Men won’t go see that movie, and in foreign markets movies with women don’t do so well.” The only way to refute this, he says, was to prove them wrong. “It’s one thing to say there should be more great roles for women, but if you don’t create them it’s all lip-service. You gotta put your money where your mouth is and actually do it. Everybody in positions of power – especially men but women too – has gotta step up.”
The venom behind some of the reaction to the new Ghostbusters casting could be seen to confirm a sense that some men simply aren’t interested in stories about the opposite sex. Last year, Feig called some of the comments “vile, misogynistic shit”; today, he questions the relevance of that backlash. The bigger problem, he thinks, lies with the internet – “which puts a small minority of voices into a sort of bullhorn” – and the media, which amplify this negativity. “It makes me sad that informs every article now. There’s always some comment about how people are down on it. Well, somebody is down on everything. It’s very easy once you’re predisposed to be pissed about something to watch it and find fault.”
Plus, people are conditioned by what they see on screen. There is a duty to broaden that scope and try to persuade people out of such prejudice. “Hollywood has created a situation in which women come off as bad or subservient or unlikable or boring because those are the roles written for them. What character looks great telling the hero that he shouldn’t be saving the world, that he should be spending more time with his family? Nobody!
Related Link: View the full Production Notes for Ghostbuster 2016
Looks like Dominic Toretto and his racing crew are officially headed to Cuba for Fast 8.
It’s been decades since a Hollywood studio shot on the island, but as U.S. relations with Cuba warm, Hollywood has begun to dip its toes in again and test the possibilities. Conan O’Brien journeyed there in March to make Conan the first late-night show to shoot on the island post-embargo.
In 2014, Bob Yari’s Papa: Hemingway in Cuba became the first Hollywood indie to do the same. And now, another milestone arrives as tweets confirm that Fast 8 will be the first Hollywood studio movie to film on the island post-embargo. On Wednesday night, the Fast and Furious Twitter account shared a warm welcome from some of the latest installment’s local extras.
So, does this make Vin Diesel the American studio-film industry’s ambassador to Cuba? Is he ready for that kind of responsibility? From the looks of things, he’s chill as ever. And given how things are going, why shouldn’t he be? In addition to the film’s historic achievement, the movie will bring Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray into the mix.
On top of his recent critically and commercially successful biopic, Gray also directed 2003’s The Italian Job, which, on top of its awesome Mini Cooper chase scene, also starred Charlize Theron, who will also be starring in Fast 8. Following her recent turn as an action hero in Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron might be the most exciting element of the whole project—especially as she’s slated to play the villain.
In addition to Theron, Scott Eastwood will be the other new-coming actor to join all the returning alums when the movie comes out on April 14, 2017: Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Kurt Russell are all coming back. In an Instagram post, Diesel himself gave a hint about what’s to come in the new installment, saying, “We’re in Cuba, where the Torettos started. … It’s Dom Toretto, back in his homeland.” Welcome home, Toretto.
Disney-Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” soared to $14.9 million in 15 international markets in Europe and Asia, finishing first in each.
Disney reported that the Wednesday opening is just behind last year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which wound up being Marvel’s highest international performer with $946 million.
South Korea led the way with $4.3 million, followed by France with $2.4 million, Philippies with $1.5 million, Taiwan with $1.4 million, and Thailand and Hong Kong with $1.1 million each.
The Korean launch was the third-largest opening day of all time and took 91% of the market. Its number trailed “Avengers: Age of Ultron” by 5%.
The French launch was the biggest opening day of the year and 16% behind “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The Philippines debut was also the third largest opening day of all time and only 4% behind “Ultron.”
“Captain America: Civil War” will be open in 63% of the international marketplace by Sunday. Thursday sees openings in Germany, Australia and Brazil, along with Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal, Malaysia, Singapore, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia.
Pre-release tracking estimates suggest that the superhero sequel could rack up roughly $200 million overseas after its first five days in theaters.
An opening of that size would put it in line with the foreign launches of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” ($212 million) and “Iron Man 3” ($160 million). It dwarfs the last film featuring the star-spangled hero, 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which opened to $78 million overseas.
The tentpole includes Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ title character while introducing Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. The “Winter Soldier” directorial team of Joe and Anthony Russo returns to helm.
“Captain America: Civil War” hits theaters stateside on May 6, with some analysts estimating it could score a $200 million launch.
Lili Elbe defied convention and pushed the boundaries of medical science to become the first transgendered woman. But at what cost?
Einar Wegener would kill himself in the spring. He had chosen a date – May 1, 1930 – after a year spent in torment. The cause of his suffering was quite simple: he was sure he was a woman, born into the wrong body. Or perhaps it was more complicated: sometimes Wegener, whose life is soon to be portrayed on film by the Oscar-winning British actor Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, felt he was two people in the same body, each fighting for supremacy.
One was a Danish landscape painter, a steadfast man who, in his own words, “could withstand storms”. He was married to a woman whose strength and talent matched, or perhaps even surpassed, his own: Gerda Wegener, a successful Art Deco illustrator who produced portraits of fashionable women for magazines such as Vogue and La Vie Parisienne.
The other shared none of these qualities. Lili Elbe was, as she set down in letters and notes for an autobiography, a “thoughtless, flighty, very superficially-minded woman”, prone to fits of weeping and barely able to speak in front of powerful men. But despite her womanly defects, by February 1930 she was becoming too powerful for Wegener to resist. “I am finished,” he wrote at the time. “Lili has known this for a long time. That’s how matters stand. And consequently she rebels more vigorously every day.”
“Captain America: Civil War” is gearing up for gearing up for global domination.
Pre-release tracking for foreign debuts can be spotty, but estimates suggest that the superhero sequel could rack up roughly $200 million overseas after its first five days in theaters. The film will have opened in roughly 63% of the foreign marketplace by Sunday, including such major territories as France, Korea, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, Japan, the Philippines and the U.K. It starts rolling out on Wednesday.
An opening of that size would put it in line with the foreign launches of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” ($212 million) and “Iron Man 3” ($160 million). It dwarfs the last film featuring the star-spangled hero, 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which opened to $78 million overseas. However, this “Captain America” plays more like an “Avengers” film, broadening its appeal with foreign audiences, who might find the title character jingoistic.
It features Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and introduces Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, as well as previews Tom Holland’s new spin on Spider-Man. Chris Evans returns as the title character with the “Winter Soldier” directorial team of Joe and Anthony Russo sliding back behind the camera. The film finds the heroes split into factions over a government plan to register those with superpowers. Captain America heads up one team opposed to the initiative, while Iron Man commandeers another that is supportive of the bureaucratic oversight.
“Captain America: Civil War” hits theaters stateside on May 6, with some analysts estimating it could score a $200 million launch. Tracking suggests it should have no trouble hitting $175 million, making it one of the five biggest openings in history. It will also open in China, Russia, Italy and India in that time frame, which should boost revenues.
Reviews for the film have been sterling, and it currently enjoys a 97% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the best critically received Marvel Studios releases ever. Disney, Marvel’s parent company, is off to a torrid start at the box office. This year it has already fielded “Zootopia” and “The Jungle Book,” two films that have a chance at hitting $1 billion in receipts.
Disney announced a slew of new projects Monday, including sequels to Maleficent and The Jungle Book.
The studio has nine new live-action movies in the works, in addition to the previously announced Alice Through the Looking Glass (out May 27), Pete’s Dragon (out Aug. 12) and Beauty and the Beast (out March 17, 2017).
Maleficent 2 is confirmed with Angelina Jolie as star and Linda Woolverton as writer. The Jungle Book will also receive a sequel with Jon Favreau as director and Justin Marks as writer.
Emma Stone will star in Cruella with Kelly Marcel as writer, while Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda will lead a Mary Poppins sequel with Rob Marshall as director. Dwayne Johnson will star in Jungle Cruise with John Requa and Glenn Ficarra as writers, while Reese Witherspoon is attached to a Tinker Bell movie with Victoria Strouse as writer.
Dumbo is also in the works with Tim Burton as director and Ehren Kruger as writer. Ava DuVernay will adapt A Wrinkle in Time with Jennifer Lee as writer, while The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will be directed by Lasse Hallstrom with Ashleigh Powell as writer.
Disney updated their forthcoming release dates but didn’t specify which films will premiere when. Several of the newly announced projects are expected to receive release dates in the coming months.
Sources told The Hollywood Reporter one of the release dates will go to The Jungle Book 2. Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book, starring Idris Elba and Scarlett Johansson, crushed the competition over the weekend, earning an additional $61 million.