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 Mystery” no. 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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