‘Thor’: Natalie Portman experiments with female ‘absent-minded professor’

April 11, 2011 | 4:33 p.m.
natalie portman looks up Thor: Natalie Portman experiments with female absent minded professor

Natalie Portman (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

DAYS OF THUNDER: We’re counting down to the May 6 release of “Thor” with a month of on-the-set reports, exclusive photos and interviews with cast and crew of the first truly cosmic Marvel Studios film. Today: Co-star Natalie Portman talks about her character.

Natalie Portman’s character danced on the edge of sanity for “Black Swan” but this summer in “Thor” the 29-year-old actress tries a different mind game as she portrays a thinker of big thoughts who has a hard time with the day-to-day world — and then questions her grip on reality after meeting the film’s cosmic title character.

Portman plays Jane Foster, a scientist who is far different than the character of the same name who appeared in the 1960s Marvel comics that first introduced her as the Earth-born love interest of  the blond-tressed God of Thunder. Portman said director Kenneth Branagh made it clear that he was willing to bend the existing mythology as much as necessary. For the actress, the persona that came into focus was a somewhat familiar archetype, but one usually inhabited by male actors.

“The fact that she’s a scientist and on the fringe of mainstream science and is almost this absent-minded professor type with her devotion to her work, I felt you haven’t really seen that as a female before,” Portman said. “She’s cluttered and just … off. She’s emotional and passionate and kind of a mess. To be able to see that kind of woman in this type of movie, I thought that would be something exciting. Any time you read about those special scientists and their lives, it’s that they’re poets and artists as much as they are like other scientists.”

Portman said she delved into the history of Foster in the comics and found some intriguing portrayals — especially in recent years — but also long stretches where the character was ill-defined or fairly forgettable. All of that was an opportunity, though, she said, and she took the job to work with Branagh, whose work she admires.

“I really didn’t know about it until I started talking to Ken about doing the role and then I started looking into it. The openness that they approached this with — the way they were interested in me bringing what I wanted to the character and to help create this version of her — it made for a big job. I really felt they were going to let me do whatever was needed to make this character human and compelling and a great partner for Thor.”

— Geoff Boucher


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4 Responses to ‘Thor’: Natalie Portman experiments with female ‘absent-minded professor’

  1. Scott W says:

    This sounds like a refreshing change from the usual female sidekick/love interest stereotypes. My interest in perked even more.

  2. Mosley says:

    Sigh. I was so looking forward to Thor. It looks childish and unrealisti­c. I was wondering why the hell they couldn't use an existing town, but then came the explosives­. That actor does not make a good Thor, and a love story, REALLY ?http://bit.ly/lUGHbe

  3. Darren says:

    I loved the movie, witty, action packed, and destruction, I wanted the guy to get the girl … Thor/jane but who knows I liked the humour too. I’d see it again, wife like it too

  4. Steevie says:

    The unrealisticness of the female protagonist made me cringe to the point of exhaustion. A young, super-sexy model with super-intellectual skills and obsessed interest in astrophysics? Doesn't exist. Noone can ever relate to such a "perfect" character. There ought to be limits to ridicule. My suspention of disbelief exploded in record time…

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