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Scarlett Johansson joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2010. Landing her role as Natasha Romanoff – aka Black Widow – in Iron Man 2, the Marvel star had to learn some fancy footwork to get into superhero mode. Johansson recently shared that pumping iron wasn’t on her daily schedule before starring in the blockbuster franchise.

Marvel star Scarlett Johansson
Marvel star Scarlett Johansson | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

‘Iron Man 2’ role was a ‘massive lifestyle change’ for Scarlett Johansson

Johansson has an impressive list of film credits outside of the MCU, including JoJo Rabbit, Marriage Story (both for which she received an Oscar nomination), Lost in Translation, and Ghost in the Shell. Prior to her Black Widow fame, Johansson admitted that stunt work and rigorous exercise regimens weren’t her forte and noted how it propelled her into a new facet of acting.

“That was a humongous moment for me because I was, I don’t know, 23 or 24 when I was cast in Iron Man 2,” Johansson told Vanity Fair. “I had never stepped foot in a gym, and I had five weeks to prepare myself for these huge stunt sequences.”

Johansson’s Iron Man 2 role was earlier in the Marvel franchise, where more was required of cast members when stunts were involved.

“Back then when we were doing it, over a decade ago, it was before we kind of figured out how to be most efficient in the process of shooting stunt work, what could be handed off to other stunt people and what the actor would practically need to know,” Johansson explained. “So I was doing these huge choreographed sequences and I had no previous experience with any of that stuff. It was just a massive lifestyle change immediately upon getting cast.”

‘Black Widow’ star felt ‘intimidated’ at the gym

The physical requirements of playing Natasha Romanoff meant Johansson had to get acquainted with some machinery at the health club. She had some help from her ex-husband’s trainer who got her acclimated to a fitness regimen.

“I was living in L.A. at the time, and I went to this massive, huge, muscle meathead gym,” Johansson recalled. “I didn’t know how to use any of the equipment… I was so intimidated. Luckily I had a really great trainer, this guy, Bobby Strom, who was training my husband at the time, Ryan [Reynolds]. And he took me under his wing and was so positive, and really made me understand what functional training was.”

After being introduced to the benefits of physical fitness, Johansson became hooked and incorporated exercise as a daily practice.

“I could never go back the other way,” the Marvel star remarked. “Fitness is such an important part of my mental wellness. Other than that, I’ve had to bleach my eyebrows several times for different movies I’ve done. It’s always fun to live with in your everyday life!”


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Scarlett Johansson continues to challenge herself

Now with a myriad of characters to her name, Johansson has proven her range as an actor and seeks to consistently stretch herself. She credited her Broadway role in the Arthur Miller play A View From the Bridge, for which she received a Tony Award, as giving her the courage she needed to keep growing as a performer.

“I was able to push myself into all kinds of places emotionally as an actor, and learn from my fellow actors and the experiences night after night,” Johansson said of her Broadway run. “I realized in that moment, every piece I commit to has to feel meaningful and not just like I’m working because I’m afraid I’m never going to work again.”