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When Black Widow picks up, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run from the government for aiding Captain America in direct violation of the Sokovia Accords. The manhunt to find her is speerheaded by Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt). His character directly ties the new movie to the events of Civil War, but according to Black Widow writer Eric Pearson, the movie could have opened with a pseudo-cameo from the late Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).
"I do remember that one version of the script prior to me had written into it the end moment of Civil War with Tony and Natsha," Pearson told ComicBook.com. "Of like, 'I'm not the one who has to watch their back.' But it was old footage. It would've been, 'Hey, audience. Remember where we are — we're gonna key off this moment of her.' That's the only time I saw Tony Stark's name in [the script], was a flag-planted reminder of, 'Hey, we're right at the end of Civil War.'"
Pearson is slightly off on the timing of that tense confrontation between Tony and Natasha. It actually takes place closer to the two-hour mark shortly after the airport battle. By that point, there' still about 40 minutes left of the movie, but it is a crucial moment, as Tony informs Nat that the government is now after her (it's the last time she's seen at Avengers HQ before going on the run).
In any case, Downey Jr. would not have been brought in for a brand-new cameo. As the screenwriter notes, the character's appearance would have come by way of recycled Civil War footage, whose sole purpose was to remind viewers about where they were in the MCU timeline. Still, it would've been interesting to see Iron Man one more time following his heart-wrenching death in Avengers: Endgame.
"Initially, there was discussions about everything, about all of the different characters," Black Widow director Cate Shortland explained to GamesRadar+ and Total Film. "What we decided was, and I think Kevin was really great, he said, 'She doesn't need the boys.' We didn't want it to feel like she needs the support. We want her to stand alone. And she does."
Black Widow is now playing in theaters and on Disney+.