‘Black Widow’: Florence Pugh Was ‘Scared’ of Her Russian Accent

You’ve heard of the Oscars, but have you heard of the Isaacs? The Isaac Awards, in honor of the great Oscar Isaac, are Showbiz Cheat Sheet’s unique spin on the Academy Awards. However, the Isaac Awards are different from the Oscars in that they celebrate the best movies of 2021 that deserve recognition but will not receive that recognition through Oscar nods. The 2022 Isaac Awards feature five categories: Best Performance, Best Scene-Stealer, Best Crowd-Pleasing Moment, Best Action Sequence, and Fan-Favorite Movie. Voting will be open via this form from March 7-20. Winners will be announced on March 24.

Marvel fans immediately fell in love with Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova when Black Widow premiered in July 2021. The actor was already gaining popularity from her roles in Midsommar and Little Women, and her induction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe cemented her place as a fan favorite. Showbiz Cheat Sheet even nominated Pugh for Best Scene-Stealer at the Isaac Awards, but she wasn’t always confident about playing Yelena.

'Black Widow' star Florence Pugh wears a black dress and a diamond choker.
Florence Pugh | Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage

Florence Pugh made her MCU debut as Yelena Belova in ‘Black Widow’

Black Widow introduced Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova to the world, and it will never be the same. Yelena and Natasha Romanoff grew up in Ohio with their adopted parents, Alexei and Melina. Together, the Russian spies posed as a family, and they gathered S.H.I.E.L.D. intel. The four later escaped the country but immediately split up.

General Dreykov sent Natasha and Yelena to the Red Room for training, and they became Black Widows. However, it wasn’t until Natasha became a fugitive following Captain America: Civil War that she came face-to-face with her little sister again. Yelena, who had broken free of the Red Room’s mind control, teamed up with Natasha to take down Dreykov and save all the Black Widows. Together, they reunited with Alexei and Melina and finished their mission.

Unfortunately, fans discovered in Hawkeye that Yelena was one of the people Thanos wiped out with his snap. So when she returned, Yelena learned that Natasha had sacrificed her life to save the world. Devastated, Yelena took out her frustration on Clint Barton, who was with Natasha when she died. But he made her see the truth, which was the last time fans saw Yelena.

Kevin Feige told the D23 Inside Disney Podcast [via The Direct] that “Florence will have future appearances in the MCU.” It’s likely that Florence Pugh will become the MCU’s Black Widow and that she will be a mainstay in Marvel for years to come.

Florence Pugh admitted that her ‘Black Widow’ role terrified her

A year before Marvel released Black Widow, Florence Pugh talked about becoming a part of the MCU with Elle UK. And she described the day at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019 when Marvel revealed the cast.

“It was like a warehouse full of people,” Pugh explained. “We went out, and I’d never heard a roar like that. What was really lovely was that we said hello, then went to the front of the audience and watched a clip. All this time, Scarlett [Johansson] had marched out like she was their queen. She’s so amazing and effortless.”

The actor continued, “Then we watched the clip, and I was scared because my Russian accent was going to be out there, and I didn’t know what it sounded like. I’m also playing a character who no one’s seen before, but they’ve read about her; I didn’t know whether people were going to hate me. We both stood there, and I instantly had clammy, sweaty hands. Scarlett gave me her hand, and we squeezed each other, and she also had clammy hands!”

Pugh realized, “And then I was like, ‘Oh, this never gets old. This is just as powerful [for you], and you’re their legend.'”

Florence Pugh was terrified of what people would think of her as Yelena Belova in Black Widow. And she’s English in real life, so she had to develop a Russian accent for the role, which only added another level of nerves. But its safe to say that none of that mattered because fans adored her in the film. One of the best ways to describe Pugh in the MCU movie is “scene-stealer.”

A dialect coach comments on the actor’s Russian accent

Slate spoke with Adrienne Nelson, a dialect coach who works in Hollywood. They discussed the Russian accents in Black Widow, and Nelson had only good things to say about Florence Pugh.

“I thought Florence Pugh was fantastic,” Nelson said. “She nailed the eel sounds, like in weel [‘will’] and keel [‘kill’]. It’s often a missed sound and a false note. When she started hitting those, I’m like, ‘Ugh, I’m in heaven.’ Another thing she did beautifully, when they say don’t, they often drop that T. [In Russian accent] ‘I don’ care.'”

The dialect coach continued, “[Pugh] also gorgeously integrated the musicality and rhythms that I was talking about. One challenge for actors is only being able to keep the dialect consistent when they’re speaking at one tempo, which they’ll embrace for every situation. She succeeded in being able to keep her dialect consistent whether she was in a fast-paced, intense, high-stakes scene or a more casual, heartfelt scene.”

“The dialect was just one of many colors and layers that comprised her character,” Nelson concluded. “And if there was a line or word that grabbed my ear, it was too fast to be distracting.”

Vote for the 2022 Isaac Awards here now through Sunday, March 20. Winners will be announced on March 24.

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