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Natalie Portman becomes (a) Thor in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’

The actress talks about reinventing her role in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ the newfound multitude of women in the Marvel universe, and why she loves Cambridge in the springtime

Natalie Portman as a version of Thor in Marvel Studios' "Thor: Love and Thunder."Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios

Director Taika Waititi’s first Marvel movie, 2017′s “Thor: Ragnarok,” featured wild humor, new worlds, Tessa Thompson as powerful fighter Valkyrie, Cate Blanchett as Thor’s vengeful sister Hela, Jeff Goldblum as an eccentric politician named Grandmaster, and, of all things, a cameo by Matt Damon.

It was a jam-packed two-plus hours of superhero cinema — except one longtime “Thor” cast member was missing.

Natalie Portman, who has played Thor’s love interest, astrophysicist Jane Foster, since 2011, was absent from “Ragnarok” because the characters had ended their romance.

“Sorry to hear that Jane dumped you,” says a random fan taking a selfie with Thor in “Ragnarok.” Thor responds by looking embarrassed and trying to save face — which makes it all the more fraught (and funny) when Foster returns in Waititi’s latest installment of the franchise, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” out July 8.


Thor’s ex not only shows up to his hometown in the new film, but presents herself as Thor, wearing her own version of his superhero uniform, and clutching Mjölnir, his trusty hammer.

Is she “a” Thor? Or “the” Thor? No spoilers, but the film makes it possible for both actors to both be blond, muscled, and ready with quippy comebacks. They team up with Valkyrie — Thompson’s character is now the governing “King” to Thor’s people — to fight a new villain, God Butcher (Christian Bale) who, as his name suggests, wants to kill all gods.

Portman, 41, sat for an interview with the Globe via Zoom to talk about returning as Foster in the latest chapter in Marvel’s ever-growing universe.

Tessa Thompson (left) as Valkyrie and Natalie Portman as a version of Thor in Marvel Studios' "Thor: Love and Thunder." Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios

Q. Have you watched all of the Marvel films?

A. I have seen all of the “Thor” films, of course. I’ve seen a lot of the MCU films. You couldn’t quiz me on the trivia, but my son could answer.


Q. Without spoilers, can a person be “a” Thor . . . or does a person have to be “the” Thor?

A. Thor is a concept. You can be a Thor, which is, I think, exciting. There’s room for everyone to participate in that. And it’s about worthiness, rather than a singular identity.

Natalie Portman as a version of Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in "Thor: Love and Thunder." Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios

Q. The title leans into this being a romantic film. Is it fair to call it a rom-com?

A. I really feel, like Taika, it has created like a genre unto itself of — like a mash-up of all genres. There’s all of these things that you never would imagine could coexist in one movie. The action and the romance and horror and drama, humor; it’s surprising that everything coexists so smoothly. I think that’s really a testament to Taika.

Q. “Iron Man” came out in 2008. In a lot of those introductory Marvel films, women played love interests and secondary characters. But I’m now watching those same women, who are around my age [40s], as central figures in these films — in a way that’s rewarding. I wonder if this is something you’ve noticed, too, that when you get to have a larger story that’s told for this long, it makes a ton of room for more narratives.

A. I’m glad and proud to be in this phase of the universe that has women in such a variety of personalities and powers — and appearance and age. I feel like, for me, growing up, there was the woman you could look to in a movie. It’s great, now that there’s such a wide variety of people that you can, as a kid, be like, “Oh, I identify with that person because I I feel like I’m like them in my personality. Not because that’s the one that demographically fits to my identity.” Now, there’s a multitude.


Q. My comfort film during COVID, for whatever reason, was the 2018 sci-fi horror film “Annihilation.”

A. I love that movie. But as a comfort film . . .

Q. I don’t know why it works. But you worked with Tessa Thompson in that film, and this one. What is it like to approach a very different kind of film with a former costar?

A. It was incredible to get to be on set with Tessa and to watch her work in a completely different environment. She’s so talented, and also a really good friend. She had experienced making “Ragnarok” with Taika, so she understood the dynamic and the work style. It was really helpful to have a friend to help guide me through the process because it’s quite radical, the way that Taika works.

Q. What makes his process radical?

A. You’re making this enormously seen film, where the stakes are quite high financially, and he does the same that he does on his indie movies, where everything is kind of invented on the day. Every take is different. You change the dialogue in every take. Everyone’s improvising. The other writer (Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) was coming up with ideas and throwing them out as you film. You laugh, you start over. It’s extremely spontaneous, extremely improvisatory. You rarely know what you’re doing next. But it’s also very scary as an actor, I think, going in the first time because you can’t really prepare, except just to be open.


Natalie Portman attends the "Thor: Love and Thunder" world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on June 23, 2022.Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney

Q. One could think of you as a local because you graduated Harvard, curated a film festival for Boston Calling, and played Jackie Kennedy in “Jackie”.

A. Well, I love it there, and I do feel that Boston — Cambridge, in particular — is one of the places I feel at home. I was just there a few months ago for a Signet [Society] event at Harvard, and it was incredible to be back. In springtime, you’re always like, “This is the most beautiful place in the world.” I hope I keep coming back for the rest of my life.

Interview was edited and condensed.

Meredith Goldstein can be reached at meredith.goldstein@globe.com.