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Scarlett Johansson sees Black Widow as cerebral, vulnerable

Even the biggest actresses need a motto. A mantra. Something to put on a sticky note in the bathroom mirror.

For Scarlett Johansson, her daily touchstone lately: “It feels great to leave a party while it’s raging,” she says.

Of course, she’s talking about her onscreen alter ego – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow from the “Avengers” franchise and the new “Black Widow” film.

The question of the moment: Would she consider coming back again if the world needs additional saving?

Johansson, in her trademark husky voice, maintains, “It’s been a decade of my life and I’m grateful.”

So that’s a maybe? “If you love something, set it free,” she insists with a laugh.

In “Black Widow,” finally opening July 9 after a year-plus COVID delay, she stars in the first standalone film in the Marvel universe post-“Avengers: End Game.” She reprises dual roles in a prequel set between the films “Civil War” and “Infinity War.” The film also stars Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and William Hurt.

Now 36, and acting since she was a child, the native New Yorker is married to “SNL” cast member Colin Jost and is mom of daughter Rose, 6, with ex Romain Dauriac. Next up is reprising her voice role as Ash in “Sing 2.”

Review-Journal: What is your idea of an ideal Sunday?

SJ: I’m in New York with my family. We walk around and enjoy all the city sights and smells. This city is a new story every single day. Maybe we see a film. When we get home, I take a long bath and then I love to cook dinner. I find cooking to be really relaxing.

Fans waited a long time for “Black Widow” to be released due to COVID. Was there any positive here?

The pandemic allowed us to keep working on the film and fine tune it. I believe the film is worth the wait.

Was there ever a thought to end Natasha’s journey when we saw her sacrifice herself via mountain plunge in “End Game?”

Honestly, I would have been happy to end it at “End Game” and walk away, but then this film came to light. I’m so glad we did a stand-alone film because I wanted to answer the questions fans had about this character and the secrets that always haunted her. The film feels alive, new and powerful. I’m really pleased with the work, and it was great to return to something I love.

Why is Natasha/ Black Widow such a fan favorite?

It’s her vulnerability. She wore this brave face as an Avenger, but she was always dealing with some deeper issues revolving around trust and family. We were really able to peel back the layers of this onion with her own film. She is such a cerebral person. Yes, she’s involved in all of the action, but she’s a thinker, which makes her an interesting superhero.

Why didn’t we see a Black Widow movie sooner? And what does the movie reveal?

I think everything happens in its right time. It’s better to do this now because I have a deeper understanding of the character, who is actually quite complex. In the new film, we find Natasha in a dark place where she’s got no one to call and nowhere to go. She’s really grappling with her own self. She’s in a moment where she doesn’t really know what to do next … I couldn’t have made this movie 10 years ago. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it.

What was the best part of this gig?

It’s the fact that this character has changed so dramatically over the decade of playing her. When you and I first met her, she started off posing as a sexy woman with a skill set on the side. The next time we saw her in an Avengers movie, she was one of the boys … for better or for worse. And now she has her own story, which is pretty surreal. I loved finding her at different points in her life.

Over the years was it nice to see other women like Elizabeth Olsen join the fray?

It was great because that made it a more diverse cast, but it was also nice from an emotional standpoint. When Lizzie signed on, we were clinging to each other. I had been in this testosterone fest for so long, so it was really reassuring to see another female character come on.

Is it ever intimidating to play a superhero?

Absolutely in the beginning, I had a few nervous moments. I didn’t know how the audience would react to my interpretation of this very beloved character. All of a sudden, I was just thrown into the mix and we were rolling. I was also among so many strong characters that I had to do my best to make a mark, so it has definitely been challenging — and we haven’t even begun to talk some of the stunts.

How have you changed over the years of playing her?

It’s been an interesting journey. I’m in a different place in my life. Basically, I’m more forgiving of myself as a woman. I’m more accepting of myself. At a certain age, you come into your own and embrace your own self-worth. You evolve over time, which is really a pretty cool thing. And when you can look back at a body of work like this one, it’s almost a photo album for where you were at certain points in your life.

Did you ever expect a romance between Black Widow and the Hulk? There always seemed to be something there, although he has anger issues.

Obviously, these two have a bit of history together. They enjoy their time saving the world. Maybe there’s another universe where there’s a romance, but this Natasha knows she’s here in this world for some greater purpose and it’s not about her love life. That’s not on her schedule this time around. She’s a superhero. Who follows her own path despite any Hulk longing.

Did you keep anything from the set? Halloween is on the horizon.

Not a thing. Every single suit is in a Marvel property room.

And now that it’s over … any last words?

This has grown beyond my wildest dreams. I could never imagine where this would take all of us, but I’m glad I was there for the ride.

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