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Florence Pugh Agreed To Become Yelena Belova In Black Widow Under One Condition

Florence Pugh finally made her debut as Yelena Belova in "Black Widow," the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first major film release of 2021. The highly-anticipated solo movie serves as both a bittersweet farewell and a prequel story for Scarlett Johansson's beloved Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow. Set after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," "Black Widow" sees Natasha return to Europe, where she is called on by her younger, adopted sister Yelena (Pugh) to help free the other Black Widows from the mind-controlling drugs used on them in The Red Room. Because Natasha and Yelena were also trained at the covert site, this is a deeply personal mission for both of them. It demands they use every bit of their Black Widow training to free their fellow Widows and take down The Red Room's shadowy head, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone).

For Pugh, signing on to play Yelena meant taking on one of the biggest challenges of her career to date by joining the ranks of one of the biggest Hollywood studios in operation. Before she officially signed on to play Natasha's sister, Pugh used some of that assertiveness viewers can see from her in "Black Widow" to make one condition very clear to Marvel — and it ended up paying off big time.

For Florence Pugh, just choosing to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a 'big decision'

In a profile for Elle UK magazine published in July 2020, Pugh opened up about being offered the role of Yelena in "Black Widow" and what considerations she made before taking it. During the interview, Pugh readily admits she had never been a big fan of Marvel and says that it was a "big decision" to take the "Black Widow" role. "When you think of Marvel, it's big and daunting," Pugh said. "Especially being a relatively small actor to look at it and go, 'Oh! I'm going to be a part of this,' that's a big decision."

The profile goes on to reveal that when the role of Yelena was described to Pugh, one of the key descriptors of the character was that she was in "peak athletic condition." To this, Pugh clarified that "essentially you need to look good moving," but said she "loved all of that because I grew up with a lot of dance and a lot of movement ... I find all of that combat stuff so exciting." However, Pugh did note that "once you've put it on camera you've got to know how to make it look right and that's a whole different beast."

In other words, while tackling the part of Yelena Belova seemed like a big commitment, Pugh was apparently game to do it. It would be an intense ride, unlike anything the actor had done up to that point (unless you count the mentally grueling part of Dani in "Midsommar"). 

Florence Pugh's one condition for joining Black Widow involved overseeing her own training

Neither she nor Elle UK mentions it in the profile, but by the time that Pugh was offered the "Black Widow" role, it had already been well-established that actors who tackle physically demanding roles in the MCU are put through the veritable wringer whilst training (lest we not forget all the creative ways that the cast of "Avengers: Endgame" got ripped for the movie). For Pugh, it was important that she be in control of her meals and her fitness while also doing what Marvel needed from her in order to ensure that Yelena felt like a believable assassin on-screen.

"When I got the job, I wanted to know what the regime was," Pugh told Elle UK. "I wanted to know whether it was them or me calling the shots. That was a big deal for me. I didn't want to be part of something where I was constantly checked on. And people making sure I was in the 'right' shape. That's not me at all."

By now, we know that Pugh's decision to take some control back over her training for "Black Widow" paid off massively. In the Elle UK profile, Pugh notes that she cooked good meals for herself every day and brought them to set, despite Scarlett Johansson's insistence that her training team could cook for her. Fortunately, the result of all of Pugh's hard work is on full display in "Black Widow," a film that should, hopefully, launch what will be an epic arc for her character in the coming years. Of course, that all goes without also mentioning how Pugh's investment in the physical side of her performance as Yelena paved the way for one of the funniest lines in "Black Widow."