Natalie Portman says ‘Thor’ role hammers away at ‘cute’ stereotypes

Nov. 19, 2010 | 5:00 a.m.
nataliep Natalie Portman says Thor role hammers away at cute stereotypes

Natalie Portman arrives for the "Black Swan" premiere at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival. (Getty Images)

Next summer, Marvel Studios will deliver its first truly cosmic film with “Thor” but to connect with a wide movie-going audience the film will also need a human heart within its tales of Asgard. That’s why director Kenneth Branagh and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige brought in actress Natalie Portman to add new layers to the character of Jane Foster, who since her creation in 1963 has been far less memorable than comic-book counterparts such as Lois Lane or Mary-Jane Watson.

Asked if the blank-slate role is an opportunity or a challenge, Portman didn’t hesitate: “I did think it was a total opportunity,” the 29-year-old said. “I signed on to do it before there was a script. And Ken, who’s amazing, who is so incredible, was like, ‘You can really help create this character.‘ ”

The Foster character appeared in the second “Thor” story ever published, “Journey into Mysteryno. 84, and was first presented as a blond and bland nurse who worked for Dr. Donald Blake, the disabled physician who taps his cane on the ground to transform into his alter ego, the Norse god of thunder. That’s far different than the set-up in the Branagh film, which presents Foster as a savvy and skeptical scientist who encounters Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) after he has been stripped of his powers and banished to Earth by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Portman said that she did considerable research for the role and well beyond the pages of Marvel Comics.

“I got to read all of these biographies of female scientists like Rosalind Franklin who actually discovered the DNA double helix but didn’t get the credit for it,” Portman said. “The struggles they had and the way that they thought — I was like, ‘What a great opportunity, in a very big movie that is going to be seen by a lot of people, to have a woman as a scientist.’  She’s a very serious scientist. Because in the comic she’s a nurse and now they made her an astrophysicist. Really, I know it sounds silly, but it is those little things that makes girls think it’s possible. It doesn’t give them a [role] model of  ‘Oh, I just have to dress cute in movies.'”

— Amy Kaufman and Geoff Boucher


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8 Responses to Natalie Portman says ‘Thor’ role hammers away at ‘cute’ stereotypes

  1. Aitch says:

    Actually it doesn't sound silly Natalie–it is progress when you change the role to be more modern and substantial for the Female characters.

    • Guest says:

      A female astrophysicist who makes with affirmative action after competing with all of the better male astrophysicists. Now that I think of it, that is modern and substantial for females.

      • Andrew says:

        I really doubt that they use Affirmative action that prominently in quantifiable job fields such as Astrophysics. However, there was a double blind study done having professors rate students that they never met for a job reference, females were more often rated as 'sociable' and 'team player' even though both the male and female students had they same fictional grades and credentials, and of course, were entirely made up.

  2. David Scholes says:

    It makes Jane Foster sound a whole lot more interesting.

    I can't wait for the Thor movie to be released!

    As an Aussie science fiction writer I’ve been a Marvel Thor fan since the original Journey into Mystery of August 1962.

    If you get a chance check out some of my Marvel (mainly Odin and Thor) fan fiction. Just scroll down below my author profile and you will see over 40 fan fiction stories here:

  3. Peter Higgins says:

    Very very few movies work with two strong leads, mostly because one of them is a strong lead for political reasons and not story-based reasons, or else the story-telling is compromised for the politics. Why not make one movie with a female lead and one with a make lead instead of thinking both can be combined. I can identify with the universality of Thelma and Lousie, and I like to think women can do the same with, for example, Luke Skywalker. If you want put more women in leading roles, but please no more politically correct movies!

  4. Ferrum Itzal says:

    The script was written years ago, in the form of the comic books, but then the hollywood leftists have to go and change things. It's not "modernizing" the tale, but rather altering it so completely as to lose everything about the original story except the title. I was very excited to see this movie when I heard that my friends at Mad Dwarves Workshop were responsible for creating one of the prominent swords in the picture, but now I have to take another path. I do not support political correctness or revisionist history, and call shame on those that do.

  5. Lorena says:

    There was a good reason why Jane Foster was hardly a counterpart to Mary Jane or Lois Lane. She was a botched love interest replaced by superior Lady Sif and Amora (the Enchantress). So she'll be unmemorable. She's a Vicki Vale at best (and *who* remembers her over Catwoman or Thalia?).

    • Nikki says:

      SIf, superior? excuse me while I gaffaw. Sif is nothing more than empowerment for the male fantasy as is Amora the Seductress. Jane was always the most real woman in Thor, she was well rounded and flawed, often done a disservice by the era's sexist attitude but coming out above them. That was the problem in the end, she was too real for Thor's universe which led her to years of decay at the hands of writers who only wanted her why they needed to prop up the disaster that is Thor and Sif 's relationship. I hope the movie is showing that Marvel they need more grounded, aspirational characters like Dr Jane Foster rather than personalitiless ciphers like Sif.

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