After years of fan demand, Marvel Studios appears to be finally moving ahead with a Black Widow film with the hiring of screenwriter Jac Schaeffer (Nasty Women). Initial reports indicate the project is still in the very early stages, with studio President Kevin Feige only having made his decision to hire Schaeffer shortly before the New Year. However, this marks the first concrete evidence that Marvel is serious about giving the fan-favorite character her own film. That raises the obvious question: What took so long? To understand the nearly decade-long delay, we need to look back at the days before the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Long before Feige helped to launch the MCU, with 2008's Iron Man, a Black Widow film was actually in development at Lionsgate, which then controlled the character rights. It was announced in 2004 the studio hoped to develop both Iron Fist and Black Widow in a budding slate of Marvel films that began with The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane. Those films, of course, never came to fruition, but Lionsgate did get pretty close to at least bringing the ex-KGB assassin to life on the big screen with the hiring of David Hayter (X-Men, X-Men 2) to write and direct. Hayter completed screenplay that stuck relatively close to Natasha Romanoff's comic book origins. However, the project was shelved before it could advance because of the poor performance of Aeon Flux, the 2005 sci-fi spy film starring Charlize Theron, which failed to recoup its $65 million budget. As Hayter explained, that was the final nail in the coffin. "Aeon Flux didn’t open well," he recalled in 2011, "and three days after it opened, the studio said, “We don’t think it’s time to do this movie.”'
The Black Widow film rights eventually reverted to Marvel, and the character made her big-screen debut in 2010's Iron Man 2, played by Scarlett Johansson. To say she's become a staple of the MCU would be an understatement, as Johansson has reprised the role in four films, with Avengers: Infinity War arriving in May. That's led fans wonder why the studio has never given the character a solo film over the course of the past decade.
Johansson has never shied away from the topic, and has expressed continued interest. And at one point, there was at least some movement on a film, with Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman produced a script treatment for a potential Black Widow project as far back as 2010. However, that obviously never went anywhere.