The Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally getting its first female-led film when Captain Marvel is released in 2018, but for a long time fans were clamoring for Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow character to headline her own feature. It became apparent that there was more than enough there to warrant a standalone movie for Natasha Romanoff, after Joss Whedon fleshed out the character in The Avengers (alluding to some of her troubled backstory).
However, the idea of Natasha being the star of the show is not in the cards. Last year, Marvel unveiled their Phase 3 lineup; some people were left wondering where Mark Ruffalo's Hulk would show up, while others took issue with the fact that Black Widow was not one of the projects announced. However, that doesn't mean Marvel Studios never considered it. In fact, Johansson had conversations with Kevin Feige about this very subject.
While speaking with Collider, Johansson revealed that she has spoken to the Marvel Studios boss in the past about potentially doing a whole series of Black Widow standalone films - going as far as saying that the two even share a similar vision for how that franchise might have played out:
“I’ve spoken to Kevin about it. I mean, of course, of course we’ve had that conversation before, and I think Kevin would also like to see a standalone film. I think I can speak for him and say that. That’s all, really. Right now I think this character is used well in this part of the universe, but I think that Kevin—I mean, we’ve talked about it and we both share similar vision for what could be a standalone series.”
Honestly, it's not surprising that Johansson and Feige had a couple of sit-downs to brainstorm a Black Widow solo film, since the studio is always one to keep their options open. Based on the franchise's current trajectory however, it's unlikely that any such film will see the light of day. It seems that Widow's destiny is that of a supporting player (see: her role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), which is most likely what Johansson means when she says that the character is "used well" currently.
Perhaps one of the reasons why nothing did ever come into fruition was because nobody was sure how audiences would react to the character. Johansson revealed that even Marvel didn't know what Widow's future would entail when she made her debut in 2010's Iron Man 2 - and that her role remained fluid so it could better fit the needs and demands of the character:
"For instance, I wasn’t contracted into doing 'Cap' movies, but that storyline worked out so well I kind of branched off and I found myself in that standalone movie. My contract is kind of mutating, I guess [laughs] or morphed to fit the demand of the character.”
Unlike certain MCU actors, it appears that Johansson is not obligated to appear in any specific films and just has a set number she's signed on for. In a way, this is best for Marvel Studios creatively because their filmmakers can incorporate her in manners that are organic to the story they're trying to tell - instead of forcing something for the sake of fulfilling a contract.
Johansson's situation reads similar to Ruffalo's, in that she can be called upon at any time (such as Captain America: Civil War) while the upcoming solo films establish new characters for us to fall in love with. They've put Widow to great use all the other times we've seen her, so it's safe to say this is the way to go.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be in theaters May 1, 2015; Ant-Man on July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot - July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - May 4, 2018; Black Panther - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel - November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 - May 3, 2019; Inhumans - July 12, 2019.