While the death toll in Avengers: Endgame was surprisingly lower than fans initially expected, the losses that the MCU did end up suffering were no less devastating.
WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
After a bit of a kerfuffle over who will jump over the cliff for the Stone, Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) sacrifices herself, so that the Avengers can bring everyone back. During an interview with The New York Times, Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed that it was Clint Barton who ended up dead in an earlier draft of the screenplay.
"Jen Underdahl, our visual effects producer, read an outline or draft where Hawkeye goes over. And she goes, 'Don’t you take this away from her.' I actually get emotional thinking about it," McFeely said.
"And it was true, it was him taking the hit for her. It was melodramatic to have him die and not get his family back. And it is only right and proper that she’s done," added Markus.
As Professor Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) mentions near the end of the film, he really tried to revive Natasha when he had the six Infinity Stones in the Iron Man glove. But when a person dies for the Soul Stone (see: Gamora), they stay dead.
"Her journey, in our minds, had come to an end if she could get the Avengers back. She comes from such an abusive, terrible, mind-control background, so when she gets to Vormir and she has a chance to get the family back, that’s a thing she would trade for," continued McFeely. "The toughest thing for us was we were always worried that people weren’t going to have time to be sad enough. The stakes are still out there and they haven’t solved the problem. But we lost a big character — a female character — how do we honor it? We have this male lens and it’s a lot of guys being sad that a woman died."
Touching on why Natasha didn't get the sendoff that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) did, Markus said:
"Tony gets a funeral. Natasha doesn’t. That’s partly because Tony’s this massive public figure and she’s been a cipher the whole time. It wasn’t necessarily honest to the character to give her a funeral."
Getting back to the subject of Hawkeye, the screenwriters also revealed that we nearly touched base with Barton and his vanishing family at the end of Infinity War. Barton (along with Scott Lang) were only mentioned in passing in the last movie in a bit of exposition about how they chose house arrest after Captain America: Civil War in order to spend more time with their families. The heartbreaking scene of Hawkeye losing his wife, daughter, and sons was, as we know now, ultimately saved for the cold open of Endgame.
"There was a time where we contemplated having that archery scene in the first movie, after the Snap. You snap, and then you pop up in Clint’s farm — what are we watching? — and that’s the first indication it had a wider effect. But he literally had not been in the movie prior to that point. It’s cool, but it’s going to blunt the brutality of what [Thanos] did," Markus added.