David Harbour explains the significance of the song “American Pie” in Black Widow, as it highlights Alexei Shostakov and Yelena Belova’s relationship.
David Harbour has revealed the significance behind the “American Pie” song in Black Widow. Black Widow premiered in theaters and on Disney+ on July 9th, after its release was delayed for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The biggest box office debut since the pandemic, Black Widow has earned $80 million theatrically, along with another $60 million globally from Disney+.
Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson in her first solo film as Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a Black Widow), after a decade long career with the MCU. The film takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. On the run as a fugitive after Civil War, Romanoff seeks to take down the Red Room, the Soviet Union’s top-secret assassins training program. To do so, she teams up with her adoptive Russian family. Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei Shostakov (Harbour) are undercover spies who took in orphaned girls Romanoff and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), while posing as a normal Ohioan family. As Romanoff returns to her roots and confronts her past, the film explore some deep themes about family dysfunction and parental failure.
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In an interview with Insider, Harbour revealed the significance behind the “America Pie” song in Black Widow and why he suggested it for the particular Yelena and Shostakov scene. In the scene, Shostakov is failing at his role as a parent and is kicked out of the room by Yelena. Instead of Shostakov simply leaving, Harbour suggested he start singing “American Pie,” touching back on a memory of when he played the song to comfort Yelena when she was a young and frightened child. The song is the only way Shostakov knows how to reach Yelena and to tell her that he “tried” as a parent. Check out his statement below:
We were sitting around talking about the family structure and in the bedroom scene with Red Guardian and Yelena Belova, my character is fumbling trying to be a father and in the end, he fails. She tells him to get out. In the script, he says something and leaves. I felt there’s gotta be something a little more profound and I said, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if back in America when she was little and was terrified having been taken from her family the Red Guardian would put her in the car and drive around and play ‘American Pie’? So from then on, she tells daddy to put in the tape. So for this bedroom scene, I’m thinking, he’s a failure as a father what can he do at the end of this scene? This narcissist who also has a big heart. And so he brings up the song, basically as him saying, “I tried.”
Harbour’s suggestion proved effective with the emotionally-charged scene and aided in revealing the nature of the fake family. Romanoff’s past is undeniably dark – she was given away by her real family to the Red Room and eventually orphaned and placed with Shostakov and Vostokoff, along with another orphan, Yelena. Meanwhile, Shostakov is a super soldier known as the Red Guardian and Vostokoff is also a Black Widow. Naturally, Romanoff’s and Yelena’s childhood was anything but conventional, and Shostakov and Vostokoff weren’t the greatest parental figures, but Harbour’s scene shows that at least he tried and that some small bond still exists despite them not being blood related.
Black Widow’s strong family theme is one of the most unique aspects of the film. Family is not a term synonymous with superheroes, with few having families of their own and the majority of them having deceased parents or siblings. Thus, it was particularly touching to see Romanoff’s return to her family as the film explored family bonds. It also raises an interesting question of how her family will respond and cope with Black Widow’s death. Meanwhile, moments like the “American Pie” scene resonate strongly with audiences, particularly with parents who sometimes struggle to reach their children. The scene shows that even the most twisted and convoluted family relations can still hold some sacred memories and connections. Harbour and Pugh boasted strong performances in Black Widow and their special moments together make viewers hopeful to see Yelena and the Red Guardian return in the MCU’s future.
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