SCARLETT JOHANSSON goes from blonde bombshell to black widow for her latest role in blockbuster sequel Iron Man 2.
The curvy Hollywood star looks stunning in a figure-hugging leather outfit as she takes on the role of Russian superspy Natasha Romanoff – the Black Widow – in the hotly anticipated new movie which also stars Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mickey Rourke.
Scarlett, 24, star of Lost in Translation, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Spirit, dyed her hair and went through a punishing fitness regime for the part but it was all worth it for a role she describes as “kicks ass”.
She said: “What do I like about the character? Everything. Her fabulous outfit. Her wonderful hair. Everything.
“There’s nothing not to like about the character. She’s a total bad ass and I think it’s rare that we get to see this sort of super heroine brought to the screen and where they’re really kicking some major ass, which she does.”
Scarlett, who is married to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds – himself the star of another upcoming superhero movie, Green Lantern – had to undergo a rigorous physical exercise routine and special diet to play The Black Widow.
She said: “When you’re doing an action scene you want everything to be exaggerated. You’re not just punching somebody, you’re punching through that person and everything.
“You want to hit it hard because you’re selling the fact that you’re either taking a blow or beating somebody senseless – and that it’s believable.
“I feel much stronger than I’ve ever felt just because I’ve had to build so much strength. I had no choice, I had to do it.
“You want to do these stunts and you just have to be strong in order to do them. So a lot of that was just being able to have stability, to have balance, and flexibility and strength and all of that stuff. “It involved a lot of training. Stunt training, strength training and weight training.
“When you’re working out you have to eat in a different way. Very clean, obviously you eat a lot of omelettes, turkey, stuff like that.”
Bringing the Marvel Comic character to life meant she also had to learn how to fight, using a mixture of martial arts.
Scarlett relished working with the film’s stunt team, even if it left her worn out by the end. She said: “The character does a lot of hand-to-hand combat, it’s a sort of defensive style of fighting because she’s small.
“A lot of the wire work was really challenging, just because you have a lot of resistance against you and you’re moving forward and the wires are all pulling back.
“That’s frustrating but I have to say we had such a great stunt team that was unbelievably supportive and they were like, ‘Do it! You can do it!’ “Sometimes you just have to be like ‘Here I go!’ You’ve just got to believe you can do it and then that’s when it works.
“I’ll probably never be able to turn my neck to the left again but it’s been worth it.”
Iron Man, which follows the adventures of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark and his super hero alter-ego Iron Man – played by Robert Downey Jr – was one of the biggest movies at the box office last year.
The sequel, again directed by Jon Favreau, sees Stark employing Scarlett’s character Natasha Romanoff as his assistant, little realising she is the Black Widow.
Scarlett, who grew up in New York, started acting as a child and one of her early roles was playing Sean Connery’s daughter in the 1995 thriller Just Cause.
She has gone on to appear in a string of movies including Ghost World, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Match Point, The Black Dahlia and The Prestige.
She also has a singing career which saw her release an album with critically acclaimed singer songwriter Pete Yorn and in 2007 she appeared on stage with Scots rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain at the Coachella festival to sing their song Just Like Honey, which appeared on the soundtrack to her breakthrough film, Lost In Translation.
Despite her long career Scarlett admits she was nervous about signing up for Iron Man 2 because she was such a fan of the original.
She said: “I thought it would be a little bit daunting, especially because I came into the project as a huge fan of the first movie.
“I was kind of geeked out when I first came to the set.
“I think roughly 80 per cent of the crew was back from the first one so it had a real familial feeling and even though the project seemed larger than life and sort of epic, it’s got a sort of small kind of communal feeling on the set. I attribute that to Jon and Robert and Marvel.
“They are dedicated to sort of keeping it all in the family, which I really appreciate. So it was nice.
“I was welcomed with open arms as opposed to being isolated. It was like being inducted into the family.”
Scarlett is in line to play Black Widow again in another Marvel spin-off, The Avengers, and she would relish the chance to continue playing the kick ass character.
She said: “I hope it will happen. I don’t know if that’s where it’s going go but she’s definitely a big part of the Avengers.
“I think that Marvel is very much invested in these characters just as much as the fans are, just as much as I am.
“You want the fans to like the character, you want them to believe in the character, root for them, and want to see them again.
“So I’m hoping that if the fans support the character, that we’ll see her again.”
Iron Man 2 is due for release in 2010.