Jennifer Lawrence played Dominika Egorova, a Russian spy, in the 2018 film, Red Sparrow. The screenplay was first presented to the Joy actress by her The Hunger Games director, Francis Lawrence. One of the major criticisms of the film upon its release was its perceived similarities to Marvel’s Black Widow. In both stories, the central characters were brainwashed and recruited into organizations where they engaged in covert operations.
Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow
Francis Lawrence defended the film and shared that the film drew inspiration from source material very different from Black Widow. The film was adapted from the 2013 novel, Red Sparrow, authored by former CIA agent Jason Matthews.
Francis Lawrence Defended Jennifer Lawrence’s Film Against Plagiarism Accusations
Jennifer Lawrence and Francis Lawrence on the sets of Red Sparrow
Jason Matthews based his story of ‘sparrows’ upon the real-life historical State School 4 in the Soviet Union. The film shed light on sexpionage and kompromat methods used by the Soviet Union to spy on influential individuals from other countries. While Jennifer Lawrence starred as one of the ‘sparrows’ in the film, audiences couldn’t help but notice the parallels between this concept and the ‘widows’ in Marvel’s Black Widow.
During an interview with ScreenRant, the director of the film, Francis Lawrence, confronted the plagiarism accusations leveled against Red Sparrow head-on. The director shared that the film drew inspiration from a different and real-life source rather than from Black Widow. He pointed out the distinctive elements of the film that set it apart from the Marvel story and confirmed that it was a unique film. Lawrence explained to ScreenRant:
“There’s people who think it’s very similar to the Black Widow story. This is not pulled from Black Widow, this is pulled from Red Sparrow, you know, it’s written by a guy who was in the CIA. It’s like, his references are coming from a very, very different place from that. But there’ll always be that. People like to put things in boxes, and I think it’s a really unique film. This is a thriller, it’s not action, again it’s not gadgetry. It’s a hard-R. There’s violence, it’s a bit perverse, it’s suspenseful, a lot of intrigue. It’s a different kind of spy film.”
The director even theorized that Black Widow may have been influenced by CIA espionage stories, hence the similarity. However, unlike Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, this portrayal was seen by some as having style without substance. The film grossed a modest $151.6 million at the box office against a budget of $69 million.
The Ballerina Backstory In Jennifer Lawrence’s Film Strengthened The Plagiarism Claims
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow
In the film, Jennifer Lawrence’s Dominika Egorova is a Russian ballerina who faces a career-ending injury. To cover her mother’s medical expenses, she reluctantly takes up a spy job. This aspect further added weight to the plagiarism claims as the Black Widow origin story in the comics also featured Natasha Romanoff as a ballerina at the Russian Bolshoi. This backstory ultimately turned out to be a lie in Black Widow’s case.
Francis Lawrence continued to refute these claims, stating that the ballerina storyline was of little focus in Red Sparrow. The major portion of the story happens after her dancing days. However, Jennifer Lawrence had to train for four months in ballet for these seemingly insignificant scenes. The Hunger Games director shared with ScreenRant:
“Most of the movie takes place after she’s injured. There’s a big sequence up front where we have a big ballet, choreographed piece that we worked quite hard on and Jen did a bunch of training for and we had great dance doubles and all that great stuff. Which is very cool, but no that’s almost right away.”
Interestingly, the Black Widow comparison was not the only plagiarism accusation leveled against the movie. The film also had similarities to the 2017 film, Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron. Red Sparrow is now available for streaming on FXNow.