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One of the biggest delights of the upcoming Black Widow is the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh. Another victim of the Red Room, Belova eventually reunites with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and the film proceeds to run red with sisterly banter.
Aside from finally filling out Natasha’s story, introducing Yelena is likely the film’s biggest contribution to the MCU as a whole, especially moving forward. This is only the beginning for her, and Pugh herself has some ideas about which heroes she'd like to co-star with.
Pugh shared these with SYFY WIRE during a recent press junket, which also featured Johansson, Rachel Weisz (Melina), David Harbour (Red Guardian), director Cate Shortland, and MCU overseer Kevin Feige. Before getting into fan-casting her future, Pugh also spoke about her early days on set and how Yelena developed.
One of Yelena's most endearing traits is that she is, for lack of a better way to put it, adorably weird. That’s meant as a compliment. She’s kooky. She’s marching to her own beat, which makes her endlessly entertaining without sacrificing her lethal nature. This was something that Pugh said director Cate Shortland encouraged, and was nurtured by a welcoming set.
"I think Cate really encouraged me to find, you know, the oddities of her and kinda lean on that,” Pugh said, adding that Johansson was extremely welcoming as well. "I really found it such a wonderful and creative space… and just to have fun. I think that was the overall thing. You know, these two sisters have so much fun together... amongst all of the pain they've shared.”
Pugh and Johansson got to know each other fast, as the first thing they shot was a fight scene. Johansson had been filming for two weeks at this point, but the fight took place on Pugh's very first week of shooting.
"Literally on my first day I was, like, throwing Scarlett up against a wall, and she was smashing my face in the sink,” Pugh said. “And I just remember, like, there was no greater way to just break the ice than really wrestling Scarlett Johansson to the floor. Like trying to choke each other. I mean it was great that it was done. We got to know each other and we were friends.”
Speaking of friends, there was a bit of contention when the conversation rolled around to which MCU hero each member of the cast would like to team up with. Johansson has already teamed up with pretty much everyone, so it was up to Harbour, Weisz, and Pugh to do the dreaming.
Harbour is a fan of Falcon (Anthony Mackie), especially now that he is the new Captain America. Red Guardian may (or may not) have a history with whoever the person is who holds that shield. Weisz had a much simpler answer, saying bluntly, “The Hulk.” Pugh jumped on this immediately: "Oh, I was gonna say The Hulk.” (Luckily, Weisz and Pugh agreed that they could share.)
“Imagine if you could control him,” Weisz continued. "You'd have like the ultimate weapon.”
Pugh agreed, saying that Melina could possibly control the big guy (played by Mark Ruffalo) who, after Avengers: Endgame, is in “Professor Hulk” mode. Whether Weisz ends up working with him is anyone’s guess, but Pugh meeting him seems very likely.
Yelena is confirmed to appear in Hawkeye on Disney+, but there’s no way that’s the end of Yelena’s MCU dominance. Mark Ruffalo is not done playing The Hulk, as he is set to appear in She-Hulk, also on Disney+. Not only that, but the MCU is slowly building out a new Avengers roster, one which could include (but is not limited to) Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), multiple possible characters from WandaVision, Sam Wilson’s Captain America, and more.
That team is going to need an assassin, so there’s no way in Vormir that Yelena won’t pocket some of that action. Who would be a good mentor for the team? Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) would be ideal, but for techno-babble and the occasional smash, Professor Hulk would fit nicely. Pugh’s dream of working with him is, one would think, very likely to become a reality. We hope that he doesn't smash her face into a sink. Black Widow hits theaters (and Disney+ premium access) on July 9.