Scarlett Johansson is glad Black Widow was made a decade after Iron Man 2, the 2010 film that brought the first appearance of the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. The actor was not impressed with Iron Man 2's approach to Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, as she tells Collider in a just-released interview that took place in 2019 on the set of the new film. Delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Black Widow will be released in theaters and on Disney Plus on July 9, and you may notice less emphasis on the character's sexual appeal. In Iron Man 2, Black Widow "is so sexualized," says Johansson, 36. She's "talked about like she's … a possession or a thing or whatever—like a piece of ass, really." At one point, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark even "calls her a piece of meat."
"Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment," she says, adding that "my own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment." But "10 years have passed … and I have a much different, more evolved understanding of myself," which "is related to that move away from the kind of hypersexualization." The new film—discussed as early as 2012, per Entertainment Tonight—focuses on Romanov's sister-like relationship with Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. Had the film been made a decade ago, however, it might have been a "story of two women competing against one another and trying to take each other down." That "just felt very old fashioned and not true," says Johansson. Today, "young girls are getting a much more positive message" and "it's been incredible to be a part of that shift." (Read more Scarlett Johansson stories.)