Actress Florence Pugh had one request when she played Yelena Belova.
After making her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Black Widow (2021), Pugh has swiftly established herself as a favorite in the fandom. While the franchise has suffered post-Infinity Saga – particularly with recent efforts like The Marvels (2023) and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) – audiences remain keen to see her reprise her role in the upcoming Thunderbolts (2025).
Thanks to the SAG-AFTRA strike, this day is further away than originally planned. In the meantime, audiences can enjoy Pugh’s performance in both Black Widow and Hawkeye on Disney+, with Marvel recently releasing more behind-the-scenes nuggets from the latter.
The new book Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye: the Art of the Series drops several new pieces of information about the TV series. While Pugh only appeared alongside its star Hailee Steinfeld (Kate Bishop) in three episodes, she played an important role that continued her story from Black Widow.
This meant consistency with the character choices made in the latter film. Pugh explains in the book that she insisted upon “one thing” for Yelena in both Black Widow and Hawkeye: her costume.
“One thing that I really wanted with Yelena was that I didn’t want her to be in tight suits,” she’s quoted as saying according to The Direct. “I didn’t want her to be a silhouette. I wanted her to be in clothes that she could fight in, that are a different look to what we’ve seen before.”
The “before” is assumedly the costumes worn by her older ‘sister’ in the MCU, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Marvel has been accused of double standards between its male and female superheroes in the past thanks to Johansson’s notoriously tight and revealing costumes in Iron Man 2 (2008), The Avengers (2012), and other installments in the series.
Johansson herself has commented on the way Natasha is sexualized in the MCU. In 2019, she told Collider that she wanted to “move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character” in Black Widow.
“You look back at Iron Man 2 and while it was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualized, you know?” she said. “Really talked about like she’s a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass, really.”
She referred to the scene in which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comments to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) that he “want[s] one” in regards to Natasha.
“Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment,” Johansson said. “You know what I mean? Because my thinking was different. Maybe I even would have, you know, my own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment or, like a lot of young women, you come into your own and you understand your own self-worth. It’s changing now. Now people, young girls, are getting a much more positive message, but it’s been incredible to be a part of that shift and be able to come out the other side and be a part of that old story, but also progress. I think it’s pretty cool.”
With that sentiment in mind, the costume designers tried to align Yelena’s costume with Natasha’s for Hawkeye. “The first one was, let’s try designing a suit that pays homage to her sister, the Black Widow,” said Visual Development Concept Illustrator Imogene Chayes. “The second was just a purely tactical suit. And then the third version is a more incognito look where she can blend into the real world—just her wearing contemporary clothes. These were very nerve-racking, but fun to do as my very first Marvel Vis Dev assignment.”
Beyond Marvel, Florence Pugh is heavily rumored to portray Rapunzel in a live-action remake of Tangled (2010). She can next be seen as Princess Irulan in Dune: Part Two (2024) alongside Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya.
Do you like the direction Florence Pugh has taken as Yelena Belova in the MCU? Let us know in the comments!