In a black Dior dress and heels, Natalie Portman looks effortlessly sophisticated in minimal makeup and a pair of strappy heels. Her hair is worn long and loose, and she’s as beautiful in person as she appears in the Dior advertisements.
Reprising her role in Thor, this 32-year-old Israeli-born movie star is very reluctant to talk about anything personal, including her marriage to ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied, in 2009, and their son, Aleph, 2. The couple met while she was filming Black Swan, a role for which she won an Academy Award, and he was her choreographer.
The happy family has a house in Los Angeles but will relocate to Paris this year.
In Thor: The Dark World, you and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) use comedy to ground it. Since this is Asgard, a heavenly plane, did that become more important than ever to root it with the humor?
I think one of the reasons the Marvel movies do so well is that they keep the comedy amid the action and the drama that is part of these films as well and they keep it entertaining. It’s more like life: even in the worst situations, always making jokes to lighten things up.
You have been in pretty intense movies, as well as family and action movies. What do you enjoy most and why do you work so much?
I like trying different things all the time and also I want to make all different kinds of movies because I feel like I love all different kinds of movies for different moments. Sometimes you need to go to something that just lets you escape and sometimes you want to go to something that makes you feel deeper and sometimes you want to go laugh for two hours. I think that all of them sort of have equal importance and there’s different things I want to do at different moments. Sometimes I really need to express something very intense and sometimes I want to go work on something really fun. (laughs) Sometimes it can be both, and I think there’s room for all of it and being a snob about it is only limiting.
What do you like about science-fiction/fantasy?
I really love getting to go into these places that I would just never be able to come up with on my own, and it’s not how my brain works. So just to enter these worlds is so magical and it brings you back to being a kid where you could just have a complete fantastical world.
As a mom, are you making choices with a different criteria now?
I don’t think so.
Who are your role models in this industry, maybe actors or women directors?
Well, it’s been wonderful to see contemporaries like Sarah Polley and Lena Dunham. Lena is a lot younger than I am, but I would like to think of her as a contemporary. (laughs) And Sofia Coppola, I like women who are really making beautiful expressions.
In this movie you have the romantic part – would you actually like to be a Marvel super hero?
I think I blew it. Because once you are Jane, then you are like, ‘Oh my God, I am a superhero over here,’ then you can’t be another character in a Marvel movie.
In another universe maybe.
I don’t know, maybe Jane can have an alter-ego (laughs).
In this film, it seems like her skill set is almost as pivotal as Thor’s in resolving the films conflicts. It’s just different from the first one.
Yes, she’s really helping. But not in like a physical superhero way, but her scientific understanding kind of helps understand what’s going on with the correspondence of different worlds with each other.
Do you think in the future, you will direct movies?
I am trying to do a film soon.
And you also have these amazing historical sites. How was that?
It was incredible. It was crazy to be in Greenwich. They had fake destroyed it, all of these fake columns just toppled down from all these explosions and everything. It was pretty wild to see these sort of landmarks destroyed.
So next year you’ll live in Europe more than America?
Sort of. (laughs)
Do you have any desire to work more in French or European movies?
I would really love to. Yeah, that is my hope for the next few years.
What are your hobbies? What kind of music, what kind of food do you like?
Well, I love all foods that can be vegan. We eat a lot of Thai food and a lot of Italian food. I definitely like eating. We have been going through Jonathon Gold’s. He’s a wonderful food writer in Los Angeles, so he has a list of like all the great restaurants in Los Angeles and we have been going through that. And I love music. I love classical, I love hip hop, I love old soul music, I love folk, I love all sorts of things. And I read a lot, I love to read. I usually read novels, but more recently I have been reading more non-fiction.
Do you prefer hard covers or do you like e-books too?
No, I am an old fashioned person.
When Jane slapped Loki, was it a real slap? If so, how far did Tom Hiddleston want you to slap him?
It was actually a punch. We did a few that were fake, but they could tell because I am just bad at that. (laughs) So there were a few real ones because they were like, ‘you are just a little girl, you really can’t hurt him’. So I don’t know, he acted like he could handle it, but I think I actually hurt him.
And then after seeing Avengers, did you wish you were in the film and if so, would you be open to doing Avengers 2?
I don’t think I would fit in very well. They are all superheroes. (laughs)
Well, Gwyneth wasn’t.
That’s true. They haven’t asked me, so we will see.
Will you be part of the next Star Wars project?
No. I died.
But you never know. As a ghost…
I know. That’s true. No one has asked me about those either, but I am really excited about them. But I would be open to it. (laughs)
What about playing a villain?
Well, I felt Black Swan had a villainous side and The Other Boleyn Girl felt like it too. Yeah, I am definitely interested. I have seen a lot of bad sides of people, (laughs) as all of us do at a certain age. Yeah, it’s really interesting what makes people into the people they are. Maybe that’s how I will be in the Avengers movie, Jane goes bad! (laughs)
Did you do any training boot camp like Loki and Thor?
No. I watched a lot of physics videos and tried to understand what my lines meant. (laughs) That was my preparation. But I don’t really have any action in it.
What about the costumes?
It was amazing, they are so beautiful. You have to walk very differently, but they were actually really comfortable. It’s one of the joys of being in these movies, that there’s just such a high level of craftsmanship. The silk is printed like specifically for the film, these Asgardian symbols and the jewelry and the armor is made by a metal worker in the studio and it’s just like a level of craftsmanship of old movie making that we don’t get to see much anymore. So it’s pretty amazing.
How was it working with Anthony Hopkins?
It was crazy. I was very intimidated, but luckily he’s one of the kindest people I have ever met. So he made me feel really at ease and he’s just, man, he’s the best. You just sit there and try to remind yourself to ask because he’s just like, you are jaw dropped on the floor watching him.
Did he give you a painting?
Yes, he gave every single person their own painting. Hand painted, for a gift at the end. He’s just an amazing man. And you know he’s like a concert pianist, a composer, and he’s nice, a very, very nice person. Lucky wife. (laughs)
As far as I can remember, you were always a good girl in the movies.
(laughs) You say that very skeptically.
How is it dealing with all the fan geeks, especially with Star Wars and now with these Marvel movies, a whole new level of mega fans, so how is it?
Everyone is really cool. It’s exciting to be part of something that people are really passionate about. Also, I am an old lady now, there’s all these like 20-year-olds that are in the thick of it. (laughs) I am on the other side. (laughs)
They are very specific about it on the internet, down to what kind of hair color. Did you read any of those blogs because they are crazy?
That’s only a way to make yourself very, very unhappy. (laughs)