Emma Watson Almost Played Yelena in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Emma Watson could have joined the MCU.
Emma Watson could have joined the MCU. / Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Back in the day, it seemed like the Harry Potter movies employed every single actor in Great Britain, from Alan Rickman to Maggie Smith to Ralph Fiennes and beyond. In the same way, it seems that most actors on the planet will eventually land some role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson to newer additions like Mahershala Ali and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

And one star could have been in both. In a report from 2019, before the character Yelena made her debut in Black Widow (2021), That Hashtag Show gave us a look at the list of contenders Marvel was then looking at. It included names like Alice Englert, Dar Zuzovsky and (of course) Florence Pugh. But apparently, the headliner was Emma Watson, who was then coming off the blockbuster success of 2017's Beauty and the Beast and about to gain yet more praise for her role in 2019’s Little Women, a movie she starred in with Pugh. According to That Hashtag Show, the idea of Watson getting the role was “gaining momentum” among producers, including Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige.

Obviously, Watson did not end up playing Yelena, and Pugh went on to do a fantastic job. Some critics thought she stole the show in Black Widow, and she was able to project both kindness and danger when she turned up on Hawkeye.

As for why Watson didn’t get the part, it could have been for any number of reasons; Hollywood is anything but a predictable place, and schedules change all the time. Still, it’s interesting to think of how Black Widow and Hawkeye might have been different with Watson in the role.

And that’s the just the beginning of Marvel “what ifs.” For instance, did you know that Tom Cruise was in talks to play Iron Man before Robert Downey Jr. landed the part? But that’s a discussion for another time.