Before The MCU: BLACK WIDOW - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Before the MCU, Earth's mightiest heroes were mightily different...

It's time for another in our series tracing the early live-action versions of the famous Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes. It's Avengers disassembled, as one by one we look back at the pre-MCU days and the attempts made to bring the characters to the screen - sometimes successfully, more often than not quite the opposite.

We're not including the multitude of animated series' that have featured these Marvel characters over the years, just the live-action takes on film and television, and today we turn to Natasha Romanoff - sometimes known by her alter ego, Black Widow. Romanoff is a spy and an expert hand-to-hand combatant, trained in the Red Room from childhood, but when we first met her on-screen in Iron Man 2 she had already become part of the counter-terrorism agency S.H.I.E.L.D.

Since her debut in 2010, Scarlett Johansson has portrayed Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow in six further films (plus a cameo in the post-credits scene of Captain Marvel) spanning the first three Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is now, finally, back on the big screen starring in the first film of Phase Four of the MCU, appropriately titled Black Widow.

Johansson is the only actress to portray Black Widow in a live-action production to date (although Agent Carter did feature Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), a 1946 precursor to Black Widow who is an operative of Leviathan), but the character could've come to the screen 35 years earlier had a certain Mrs David Bowie got her way.

In 1975, Angela Bowie, mother to the then 4 year old Duncan Jones (he of Moon and Source Code fame), secured the TV rights to both Black Widow and Daredevil for a duration of one year and planned a TV series based on the two characters. Bowie had photographer Terry O'Neill take a series of pictures of herself as Black Widow and actor Ben Carruthers as Daredevil (with wardrobe by Natasha Kornilkoff) to shop the project around to producers...

No stranger to television and film, Angela Bowie had appeared as herself in her then-husband's 1973 concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. She also auditioned for the leading role in the ABC-TV television film Wonder Woman which aired on March 12th 1974, and starred Cathy Lee Crosby (not to be confused with the later television series Wonder Woman, in which the title role was played by Lynda Carter). In their issue promoting the upcoming Wonder Woman tv-movie, Newsweek hypothesised that Bowie lost the part because of her refusal to wear a bra!

Underwear or not, she'd clearly got the bug for playing a superhero and switched from DC Comics to Marvel for what she hoped with be her next project. Alas it wasn't to be, as Angela explained some years later...
I received permission from Stan Lee to have the rights to Daredevil and Black Widow for a year. Actor, writer, Benny Carruthers and I did the photo shoot with Terry O’Neill and Natasha Kornilkoff costume designer and Barbara Daly – make-up in London and that was all that ever happened. We were unable to place the series.

Unfortunately at that time it was considered too difficult and expensive to film, special effects, etc. 
And that was it. Talk emerged in 2004, before the MCU, that Lionsgate Entertainment was planning a Black Widow motion picture, featuring the Natasha Romanova version of the character, with a script by screenwriter-director David Hayter. Lionsgate subsequently dropped the project, and Black Widow would have to wait until 2010 to finally jump from the comic book pages to live-action.

Previous Before The MCU Articles.
Iron Man
Doctor Strange
Nick Fury

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