Marvel has hired Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) to rewrite the script for the Black Widow standalone movie that will star Scarlett Johansson, Collider has exclusively learned.
Marvel had no comment.
Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland (Lore) is directing the action movie, which like all MCU movies, will be produced by Kevin Feige. Jac Schaeffer (The Hustle) wrote the previous draft of the script.
Marvel made it a priority to hire a female director for Black Widow, meeting with more than 70 candidates before settling on Shortland, though the studio did, at one point, consider male filmmakers. The point is, Marvel ultimately just wants the best person for the job, regardless of gender, and was won over by Shortland’s vision for Johansson’s solo mission. Having said that, I hear there was a fairly specific reason that Marvel looked at Benson for the new draft of Black Widow.
Sources say that Marvel executives were impressed with Benson’s work on The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which began life as a Black List script titled Him before producer-star Jessica Chastain pushed Benson to write a second script titled Her from Eleanor’s perspective — one they worked on together while the actress filmed The Tree of Life. Critics were also impressed, as Her has the highest Metacritic rating of the three Eleanor Rigby films — Him, Her and Them.
There may be another reason Marvel — and Johansson — hired Benson, one that has yet to be reported until now. Last summer, I’d heard that Benson had been hired to adapt the seven-part Dallas Morning News article My Aryan Princess for Amy Pascal‘s Pascal Pictures. Where’s the connection, you might ask? Well I’d heard that Princess — about a woman who risked her life to bring down the Aryan Brotherhood in Texas — was being developed as a starring vehicle for none other than Scarlett Johansson. Now, I was never able to confirm this information, so forgive the leap I’m about to take here, but it’s entirely possible that Johansson has seen Benson’s work on that project, liked it, and took the initiative to bring him onto Black Widow. Again, I’m not saying Johansson is even officially attached to the Princess project, just that she was rumored to be Pascal’s first choice for what is — and trust me when I say this, since I’ve read the full article — an incredible role. I’m just saying, Johansson clearly has a lot of sway when it comes to Black Widow, as it was she who pushed Marvel to hire Shortland in the first place.
The Black Widow spinoff is reportedly set before the events of the first Avengers movie and is slated to be Marvel’s second female-driven film following Captain Marvel, which is tracking to open to more than $100 million next month. Benson is represented by Wetdog Entertainment and UTA, which had no comment.