It's hard to imagine a Marvel movie without Scarlett Johansson.
The actress made her debut as Black Widow (a.k.a. Natasha Romanova) in 2010's Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr. "I knew I wanted to be involved with Marvel and Jon Favreau," she says in Variety's Power of Women issue (which also honors Laverne Cox, Miley Cyrus, Ava DuVernay and Helen Mirren). "I always like Jon Favreau's stuff. The superhero genre was never a favorite, not that I didn't like it. I liked all the Tim Burton Batman movies, but I wasn't a big comic book fan growing up. I loved Iron Man. It spoke to me. I thought Robert's work was groundbreaking. It captured my attention as a person that isn't normally a fan of that genre."
Getting into character proved to be a challenge. "The physical part of it was something I'd never gotten to experience. That was something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I never had the opportunity to play a character in a franchise before, and to grow this character as I was growing as an actor," she says. But the challenge wasn't all physical. "As the character becomes stronger in many ways, I think she also becomes more vulnerable. Her vulnerability is a strength of hers," Johansson says of the Russian spy. "I think vulnerability is often seen as a weakness."
Perhaps Johansson will get to explore that if Marvel Studios green-lights a spinoff movie, as it's done for Black Panter (Chadwick Boseman), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) Iron Man (Downey), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). She is certainly open to the idea. "I would like for it to happen under the right circumstances. I think there's a lot of opportunity to mine that story line," Johansson says. "She's got a really rich origins story. There's a lot of places you can go—you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program. There's all kinds of stuff that you could do with it. You could really uncover the identity of who this person is, where she comes from and where she's part of."
A prequel is a "possibility," she says. "There's plenty of back-story. Or not. It could be something else. Where do the Avengers go? They are underground. What happens then? What happens after it all falls apart? There are so many ways you can go. I think it would just have to be very much like its own specific thing. It would have to have its own specific vibe. It would have been totally different than any of the other standalone films. I think if the fans wanted it enough, then it would probably become a reality...Marvel would know more than I do." In fact, she has talked to Marvel "often" about the idea. "It would have to fit in the idea of where they want to go," she explains. "I'm invested in that character. Marvel is greatly invested in that character."
There's just one point of contention: "If I did it, I'd have to do it while I still actually wanted to wear a skin-tight catsuit," she tells Variety. "I don't know how much longer that's going to be."
To date, Johansson has appeared in five Marvel movies. Being part of the Avengers franchise changed her careers in ways she had never before imagined. "I think for such a long time, I felt kind of pigeonholed as this ingénue—this kind of girl who is floating between two worlds," the 31-year-old actress tells the magazine. "Maybe that was just a literal reflection of my life at that time. I'm a very curious person. I'm a really curious actor. The Marvel universe has opened up so many opportunities for me to stretch myself in ways that I never thought would be possible."