Scarlett Johansson's #BlackWidow first high-kicked her way onto our screen in 2010's Iron Man 2. Her conflicted role in this year's Captain America: Civil War marked her fifth on-screen appearance in #Marvel's movies. For most fans, Johansson defines the role; it's hard to picture anyone else playing the part.
Back when Marvel first cast Black Widow, though, Johansson wasn't even the first choice. Here are the seven other women who were in the running for Black Widow — one of whom only missed out on the role because she couldn't make the timing work out. I wonder how history would have been different if one of these beautiful superstars got the role!
1. Angelina Jolie
It's not really surprising that Angelina Jolie was a contender for the role. A succession of action roles leave no doubt about her skills, and she's certainly got the sex appeal. Visually, Black Widow wouldn't even be far away from some looks Jolie sported as Lara Croft. Sadly, right now Jolie is in the news in a rather sad way. I'm sorry things haven't worked out for her, and wish her well.
2. Jessica Biel
One of Hollywood's most sought-after actresses, Jessica Biel was high on Marvel's list. Famous for her potrayal of Erin in 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, she even played a major role in an earlier Marvel film - Blade: Trinity. She remains highly active, with parts in Shock and Awe and Invisible (both in pre-production).
3. Natalie Portman
Another strong contender for the role of Black Widow, Natalie Portman — who, of course, shot to fame as Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequels — wound up taking a very different role in the MCU. She played Jane Foster in Thor and Thor: The Dark World, although creative conflict with Marvel has left her character cast aside for next year's Thor: Ragnarok.
4. Jessica Alba
No stranger to superhero films, Jessica Alba had already played the part of Sue Storm in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. That didn't count her out, though, any more than it ultimately stopped her Fantastic Four colleague Chris Evans becoming Captain America! You can see Jessica in this year's Mechanic: Resurrection.
5. Emily Blunt
Marvel's first choice for Black Widow, Emily Blunt turned the role down (she later passed on playing the part of Agent Carter, too). All she's ever said is that the timing never quite worked out, so we can only speculate as to how Blunt's Black Widow would have differed to Scarlett Johansson's! We'll soon get to see her star in The Girl on the Train.
6. Gemma Arterton
Gemma Arterton's breakthrough role was in 2008's Quantum of Solace, and that put her on Marvel's radar. Arterton was strongly considered after Emily Blunt dropped out, but was pipped to the post by Scarlett. You can next see Gemma Arterton in The Girl With All The Gifts, where she's playing a starring role.
An Honorable Mention: Eliza Dushku
One actor who was eager to play the role was Eliza Dushku. She explained:
“They’re doing 'Iron Man 2,' and I’m so perfect for the Black Widow character, that they just need to get into it. They need to understand… I just learned Russian because I had to play a Russian girl in 'Dollhouse.' Maybe we could all tell them. Lets get on a Black Widow Iron Man 2 campaign.”
With a wealth of action experience behind her, Dushku would have been tremendous. Amusingly enough, she's dipped her toe in the Marvel waters in a very different format — she voiced She-Hulk in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. She's a firm fixture on the small screen, with Banshee and Con Man releasing this year. She also got to play the iconic part of Patricia Holm in The Saint TV movie. We have no way of knowing how seriously Dushku was considered for the role, but I can't help thinking she'd have been great.
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So there you have it! Marvel history could have been very different; we could so easily have had a different actor playing the part of Black Widow. Personally, though, I have to say that I'm quite happy with Scarlett Johansson - I think she's tremendous!