"What do I wear underneath the catsuit?" A Versace-clad Scarlett Johansson laughed at my obvious red carpet question at the Hollywood premiere of "The Avengers" last week. "Not much!" The actress also revealed that her stunts were so rigorous, she'd "shred a costume" every few days!
I saw the Joss Whedon movie last night at a Hollywood press screening, and I have to say I was impressed. In an ensemble cast of male superheroes, the fiery redhead holds her own whether she's in dire straits -- and a short cocktail dress -- at the hands of an enemy, or whether she's shooting victoriously through the air in her aerodynamic skintight catsuit; the actress is just cool.
Within a decade, 29-year-old Johansson has gone from playing a part in the arachnophobe horror flick "Eight-Legged Freaks" to a leading role as The Black Widow in the most-anticipated superhero blockbuster of 2012, "The Avengers."
In the Marvel comic, The Black Widow's first appearances (1964) were as a non-costumed ballerina turned Soviet spy. Five issues later, the U.S.S.R. supplied her with the classic uniform and high-tech weaponry.
There have been very few changes to The Black Widow's weeds over the years. The catsuit has gone from shades of grey to onyx to black, and has always been sleek, classic, and belted to show her emblem in red accent (a nod to the dot on an actual black widow spider's belly).
Having done fussy historical dramas like "Elizabeth," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Phantom of the Opera," and the upcoming Catherine the Great biopic, costume designer Alexandra Byrne had it relatively easy with The Black Widow. Fitting like a wetsuit, the latex number actually deemphasizes Johansson's curvature.
"The comic book character is drawn in a very exaggerated way," the cinematic seamstress told me during WonderCon weekend, "and Scarlett has a fantastic body. [But] I think if the costume becomes too extreme then you're undermining her."
While Robert Downey Jr. goes from one extreme to another as Tony Stark (Black Sabbath tee shirt) and Iron Man (full-on encasement), Johansson's always in her LBC (Little Black Catsuit).
Now, there have been some super-stylized, cool catsuit costumes donned over the years by Hollywood's hottest actresses (click here for a poster gallery of my favorites). Even though Johansson's done it before (she also played The Black Widow in 2010's "Iron Man 2"), it's still a treat to watch her bod-con acrobatics in "The Avengers."
This is one super-hyped superhero extravaganza that not only meets expectations, but surpasses them.
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