At this point, everyone working on a Marvel Studios project knows that they're crafting a building block of a bigger story. Black Widow screenwriter Eric Pearson is definitely well aware of that, thanks to a career that includes co-writing Thor: Ragnarok and doing rewrites on everything from Ant-Man to Avengers: Endgame.
Pearson's got a clear understanding of the MCU's interconnectivity at this point, but even he can be thrown for a loop sometimes. Which is why, when Marvel came to him with the idea for their latest film's mid-credits sequence, he got a little worried.
**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for the end of Black Widow ahead.**
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about the process of writing the film in an interview that covered everything from rehearsing with the film's star to that Taskmaster reveal, Pearson said that he "couldn't get to [his] computer fast enough" when the studio told him what they wanted for a mid-credits reveal at the end of the film. Though Julia Louis-Dreyfus' new character Valentina Allegra de Fontaine ultimately appeared first in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, thanks in part to pandemic reshuffling, Pearson was among the first creators to tackle bringing her to life in the MCU, and was thrilled that he'd get to work with the legendary actress.
What was perhaps a little less thrilling was the realization that Marvel was asking him to set something up that he didn't have a payoff for: the reveal that Valentina was sending Yelena (Florence Pugh) off to kill Hawkeye, the man she claimed was responsible for Natasha Romanoff's death. Which, if you've seen Avengers: Endgame, you know it's a bit more complicated than that.
"I felt bad. They told me I got to do it, so I was really excited I got to do a lot to shape Valentina’s personality, but they told me, 'and then at the end, this is the target.' And I was like, 'What does that mean?' They were like, 'Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to know that,'" Pearson said. "I was like, 'Who am I screwing over? Something is going on! I don’t have an answer for this.' They were like, 'You don’t need to. We are going to figure that out.' I remember writing it and feeling super guilty. 'I hope whatever writer is working on this next chapter is going to be OK with what I’ve done to them.'"
Pearson didn't elaborate on the circumstances behind the reveal, or what else Marvel might have told him, so we're not sure if he found out somewhere along the way that Marvel Studios was planning a Hawkeye series and an appearance for Val in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But even if they did tell him that, it's a hell of a tease and set-up to just shuffle off onto another writer.
Looking at the bigger picture, it's very clear that Val is up to something, and that she's counting on her sway over both Yelena and John Walker to make that something happen, but MCU movies are often as much about satisfying standalone adventures as they are about interconnectivity, so simply throwing that one piece of the puzzle out into the ether had to make Pearson a little nervous.
Another thing that made Pearson a bit nervous: rewriting dialogue and performing it for stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz in the middle of rehearsals for the film's vital "family reunion" scene around a dinner table. As Pearson explained, director Cate Shortland was very keen on taking time to rehearse that scene and nail the right balance of emotion and comedy, which meant the actors had plenty of time to come up with some ideas of their own, which in turn meant Pearson had to come back with fresh pages and, to some extent, perform them for a quartet of major league thespians.
"It’s an intimidating enough table on its own," Pearson said. "And they are all there just blurting out all their ideas and it’s so overwhelming at first. By the second day, I was able to cull down a lot of the ideas. I remember I had to perform part of the scene because I brought it to Cate during a break. She said, 'You have to [act it out].' I literally as I was reading, I was pointing at who I’m speaking for. At one point, Harbour goes, 'Oh OK.' He started to see what I was going for. I was like, 'Thank God this is working out.'"
Marvel Cinematic Universe screenwriter: Good work if you can get it, but definitely not without its headaches.