Marvel’s Black Widow movie finally has a director

A film starring Scarlett Johansson’s Marvel Cinematic Universe character has been rumored for the past few years, but that rumor now seems much closer to reality. Cate Shortland (Lore, Berlin Syndrome) has signed on to direct the long-overdue film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Earlier this year, Marvel hired screenwriter Jac Schaeffer to write the script, which is reportedly set before the events of the first Avengers film. THR says Marvel has met with “70 or 75 directors in order to find its ideal candidate,” and that hiring a woman to direct was a priority, with Johansson personally advocating for Shortland.

Johansson’s Black Widow was first introduced to the MCU in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and she has since appeared in The Avengers, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War. She’s expected to feature in the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4 as well. But in spite of her central role in the franchise, the absence of a standalone film is glaring. Her male counterparts — Iron Man (Tony Stark), Hulk (Edward Norton), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) — have each gotten standalone film treatments over the franchise’s 10-year history, with most of them headlining at least three films.

Marvel’s first female-led film will hit theaters next year: Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. The film got a prominent tease in a post-credits scene for Avengers: Infinity War, and it just finished shooting a few days ago, so it’ll certainly beat Black Widow to screens.

Besides, there’s no release date attached to the Black Widow film yet. But with Marvel’s Phase 3 ending with Captain Marvel and Avengers 4, it’s safe to say that it’ll be part of Marvel’s Phase 4, along with Spider-Man: Far From Home, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Black Panther 2, and other projects that are currently in the works. The Phase 4 films are expected to begin hitting theaters in 2019.