How will 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' handle Scarlett Johansson's pregnancy?

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Image Credit: Zade Rosenthal

When news broke Monday that Avengers star Scarlett Johansson was expecting her first child, movie fans wondered: What’s going to happen to Avengers: Age of Ultron? More importantly, what’s going to happen to Black Widow in Age of Ultron? With principal photography set to start in the next month and Johansson reportedly due in August, it seems as though the actress’ pregnancy will align directly with the film’s shooting window.

In other words: that signature outfit and a baby bump won’t exactly mix.

So what’s a franchise to do? We’re pretty confident they wouldn’t write Black Widow out of a film that the character will supposedly be a significant part of. Not to mention, the actress is very high-profile right now, what with the speculated news of a potential Black Widow film and the upcoming press tour for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which Johansson herself has said her role is “integral.”

But however normal it is for movies to be thrown wrenches like this, it’s no doubt going to have some effect on filming — and this early in the game, it’s still unclear what those effects will be. What are some ways Marvel could potentially deal with this news? Let’s examine them below:

1. Fast track the filming schedule. This seems to be the most widely speculated solution, though there’s been no official comment from Marvel either way (and likely, there won’t be any for some time — at least, not until the question is undoubtedly broached during the Cap 2 press tour, set to start this month.) There are reports that Johansson could start filming as early as April 5, right after Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters. This would allow the actress to film a majority of her action-heavy scenes, or at least the scenes that would be harder to take care of once she gets further along in her pregnancy. (Also of note: CGI works wonders in today’s movie world.)

2. Push back the shooting. This is a less likely option, as it would probably put the movie past its filming window for the May 2015 release date. However, they could film as much as possible now, and save some of the shooting until September or October, after the actress has given birth, when she’s potentially able to do a few stunts and get back into shape.

3. Stunt double — double duty! On a personal level, and as someone who enjoys when any actress takes charge to do her own stunts, I’m saddened that we’ll probably have less involvement from Johansson than we’re used to on this front. But Marvel movies are pretty good with seamlessly integrating this kind of stuff, and honestly? I challenge anyone to watch the film a year from now and then remember that there was a stunt double at all.

4. A reduced role. While it’s something that wouldn’t make fans (myself included) happy, it’s worth it to consider the possibility, depending on what the original Avengers 2 storyline was going to be. Rewrites happen all the time — most recently, Joss Whedon stepped in to help rewrite key scenes in Thor 2 — and so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for him to tinker with the script if he had to, considering that filming hasn’t even started yet.

In short: it’s an unexpected glitch for one of the franchise’s most action-heavy stars, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. Halle Berry filmed pretty much all of X-Men: Days of Future Past while pregnant, and though we haven’t seen the film yet, it’s pretty safe to say that when we do, we won’t be thinking about her pregnancy. Production on Iron Man 3 was shut down for two months after star Robert Downey Jr. broke his ankle — this was in addition to an initial delay in filming to accommodate Downey’s personal life, as his son was born just days before principle photography was supposed to begin. (By the way, the movie still made its May 3 release date with no problem.) During the filming of Avengers, Jeremy Renner injured his shoulder so badly that they had to stop production on his scenes for numerous weeks. Filming was later rearranged so that he could shoot key action sequences with Johansson instead of working with a double. And let’s not forget the power of re-shoots and pick-ups: Both Johansson and Chris Evans were seen on the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as recently as last month.

It’s nothing that a superhero can’t handle, right?

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