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In the latest MCU film Black Widow, David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov, aka the Red Guardian, likes to share tales with whomever will listen (and whomever wishes to arm wrestle the guy) about that time he fought his U.S. counterpart, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. But as one astute observer noted, how could the two have crossed paths, since when the Red Guardian was active, Cap was frozen in ice.
And by the time Steve was thawed out, Alexi was in a Russian prison.
So: is he lying or not? Have Red Guardian and Captain America fought? (And for clarity’s sake, we’re talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not within Marvel Comics, where they have indeed sparred.) Well, In interviews with Inverse, Black Widow’s director Cate Shortland and Harbour himself share slightly different ideas about this.
But one thing they agree on: if he’s lying — and basic math would suggest he is — he doesn’t realize he is.
“He doesn’t even know that he’s lying,” said Harbour. “Sometimes as an actor, I’ll have to know the reality because I’ll know [if] the character is lying. But Alexei simply believes this stuff is true.”
Harbour explains further: “There’s a thing, confabulation, where people actually just believe their lies to such a degree that even when confronted with reality, they can’t process it. It doesn’t make sense [to them]. I think Alexei is very much the same way. He lives this reality completely independent of what other people have seen or heard.”
Meanwhile, Shortland believes both things about the former Russian spy now turned (in the immortal words of James Joyce) “praiser of his own past:” he’s lying and telling the truth. Regardless, there’s one thing Shortland does know about a potential fight between Cap and Guardian: it wouldn't be pretty.
“I wanna see Alexei and Captain America together,” she admitted. “If we saw them together now, I think we know what would happen. I don’t want to see Alexei poo his pants. I think that’s what would happen. You’d find this little boy in the corner crying his eyes out.”
Ouch. Fair. But still: ouch. And gross.
Black Widow is in theatres and available to stream on Disney+. Check it out and determine for yourself whether Red Guardian could take on Captain America.