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What it's really like working as Scarlett Johansson's stunt double - Exclusive

The end of Scarlett Johansson's character arc as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was an emotional and impactful moment, as the OG Avenger sacrificed herself in exchange for the Soul Stone in the effort to defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin). It was a great send-off for an actress who had turned in an iconic performance over the previous nine years, but it wasn't just a swan song for Johansson — it was also the end of the narrative road for Heidi Moneymaker, the stunt performer who doubled Johansson in every one of her MCU appearances.

You may not know Moneymaker's name, but if you've watched just about anything in the past decade and change, you've seen her work. After breaking into the stunt game with Joss Whedon's Angel in 1999, she's gone on to craft an absolutely insane resume — appearing in everything from the Fast and the Furious franchise to Zack Snyder's fever dream Sucker Punch to TV staples like NCIS: Los Angeles.

Since teaming up with Johansson on Iron Man 2, Moneymaker has also been the primary name the team at Marvel Studios calls on when they need to put Black Widow through her action paces. She's helped bring the character to life across seven MCU titles, and will do so again when the solo Black Widow film, originally scheduled for release in early 2020, arrives in theaters.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Moneymaker shared what it's been like working with Johansson on the epic yarn that was the Infinity Saga.

Heidi Moneymaker's Marvel Cinematic Universe origin story

So, how does a nearly decade-long relationship between actor and stunt performer start? According to Moneymaker, it came down to Johansson's choice. "That just started off as a luck of the draw," she said. "Tom Harper, really amazing [stunt] coordinator, brought me in for Iron Man 2 and basically had [Johansson] select between myself and Bridgett Riley, another very good stuntwoman, and Scarlett happened to pick me."

Moneymaker's excellent work on action beats like the now-famous hallway fight that introduced us to Black Widow's true capabilities earned her another call when it came time for the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent to don her jumpsuit again. "Then, I think the next one was the first Avengers, and it was just like the coordinator thought, 'Okay, well, who doubled her on the last thing? Cool,'" shared Moneymaker. "It started off less about me and Scarlett having that relationship of her bringing me along and more like me just always being there."

Eventually, however, the bond between actress and stunt double became tight enough that the two would become linked across multiple films. 

"[For] Winter Soldier, I think she was like, 'You know what? We work really well together. I really think that we should work together on everything that we do.' I said, 'Yeah, sure. Call me. If I'm available, I'm there for you,'" Moneymaker told Looper. "Most people I go work with, we get along really well, but I try to keep it a little more businesslike, but some people, you just end up bonding with, especially having been with Scarlett for 11 years. We did Infinity War and Endgame, and that was over a year of filming straight, and we're in different countries and you're going through different life things and stuff, so you do end up bonding over those kinds of things."

For Heidi Moneymaker, becoming Black Widow was about more than fighting

While Moneymaker's chops at crafting compelling on-screen action are indisputable, serving as the double for such a recognizable character and actress is apparently not just a matter of executing stunts. There's also a great deal of mimicry required to render the on-screen line between performer and double indistinguishable. 

"I remember on Iron Man [2] doing that fight scene that we did with all the guards and everything," recalled Moneymaker. "At the end of that fight scene, Black Widow walks down the hall and someone pops out and she just sprays them with ... mace? I forget. Anyway, when we were shooting the pre-viz for that, I was marching down the hall super-fast like Linda Hamilton [from] Terminator 2, and sprayed the guy and walked out. I was watching the pre-viz with Scarlett and she's like, 'Hey, do you think I walk like that?' It was like one of those first times I was like, 'Oh, yeah, I got to make sure, even in the pre-viz, make sure that I'm trying to mimic her as much as possible.' I've spent a decade trying to learn how to be sultry like Scarlett Johansson."

What's more, it's rarely just a matter of one stunt performer making action magic happen. According to Moneymaker, the team dynamic that goes into the kind of stunt work that characterizes Black Widow is one of her favorite parts of the process. 

"I like the fact there's a team," she said. "The last Black Widow, I was injured in the beginning and I couldn't do the principal photography in the film. Mickey Facchinello, C.C. Ice, and Michaela McAllister all went out in its different points for playing Black Widow roles. They did a ton of work ... For me, I feel like it's better that there are all these amazingly strong talented women that got to be a part of this Black Widow character, including Scarlett. For me, it's Team Widow. It feels good to be a part of that."

The endgame for Scarlett Johansson and Heidi Moneymaker

With Black Widow's story having come to a heroically sacrificial conclusion in Endgame and photography wrapped on the Black Widow movie, it seems like Team Widow's work in the MCU has come to an end. The moment hasn't been lost on Moneymaker, who recalled, "I went into the video village tent and talked to Scarlett and I said, 'Hey, are you be doing more of these Black Widow movies?' She goes, 'I don't know.' I'm like, 'Just wondering, am I about to go out there and do my last stunt as Black Widow?' She goes, 'Maybe?' It wasn't even a big stunt. I was jumping off like 16 or 17 feet off the platform and like rolling and crashing, but ... we both knew, 'Oh, this might be the last Black Widow stunt, and it might not,' but either way, it was super emotional for both of us. We even had like the behind-the-scenes camera and stuff, and video. We're hugging and crying and being girls.

Of course, there's still one last Black Widow adventure for the public to take in, although when it might happen remains up in the air. Originally slated for release in May 2020, Black Widow was pushed back to November 6, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we'll have to wait a while longer to see Moneymaker's final collaboration with Johansson. As is usually the case with anyone involved in the Marvel films (we're looking at you, Tom Holland), Moneymaker was mum on any details of what we can expect, but she did offer up one little tease, saying, "I can't tell you anything, but I can tell you that it's awesome." We'd expect nothing less from the ultimate instance of what has been a phenomenally successful action collaboration.