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Black Widow's Fight Scenes Had Some Surprising Inspirations

2010 was a landmark year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite it only hosting a single new installment of the then-budding franchise. "Iron Man 2" was its first sequel, but that wasn't the only first the film brought, especially in terms of the MCU's rapidly expanding hero roster. Not only did it introduce Don Cheadle's James "Rhodey" Rhodes — as well as the debut of his iconic black and gray War Machine armor –, but it also featured the arrival of Natalie Rushman, better known as Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff, as played by Scarlett Johansson.

Black Widow had a strong showing in "Iron Man 2," leading her to pop up in countless other MCU franchises in the years that followed. However, all the while, she lacked a standalone series of her own a la "Captain America" and "Thor." Thankfully, Marvel Studios rectified this in 2021 with director Cate Shortland's "Black Widow": something of a "Captain America: Civil War" sequel and "Avengers: Infinity War" prequel that finally explored Nat's complicated past as she embarked on an important mission in the modern-day — reuniting with her "family" along the way.

"Black Widow" is, in many ways, your typical MCU fare, meaning it contains more than a few action sequences. The inspiration for such scenes, though, may surprise you.

Black Widow's action was informed by several big screen classics

As she evades capture by the United States government for her decision to help a fugitive Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow's past as a Red Room assassin catches up to her. She ends up joining her "sister" Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and "parents" Red Guardian (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) on a mission to disband the Red Room, free its chemically-brainwashed captors, and defeat its figurehead, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Unsurprisingly, this premise paved the way for action scenes galore, which Cate Shortland put great care into developing.

In July of 2021, Shortland spoke to IndieWire about her approach to developing the action in "Black Widow," referring to her preferred tone as "gritty." "We wanted to feel the punches, and we wanted to feel the repercussions of a hit or a kick," she explains, adding, "We were also looking at what was in the script and what was the heart of the story within these big, epic sequences." Shortland cites such films as "Oldboy" and "Silence of the Lambs" as the inspiration behind the violence in "Black Widow," with titles like "No Country for Old Men" and "Thelma and Louise" informing the overall production.

Considering how many MCU entries have graced screens big and small over the years, crafting innovative, unforgettable action can prove difficult. Cate Shortland clearly wanted to make "Black Widow" stand out from the pack, and it's evident that she looked at the right films for inspiration.