The world is in love with Natalie Portman. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But between the ever-increasing award buzz surrounding her stunning performance in Black Swan, a vastly expanding (and diversifying) portfolio of films (four of which are being released within 12 months of each other — a psychological thriller, Black Swan; a romantic/sex comedy, No Strings Attached; a goofy spoof, Your Highness; and a comic book action flick, Thor) and the fact that the recent announcement of her engagement and pregnancy was front page news (or whatever the online equivalent of "front page" is ... "top of the scrollbar news?"), the aim of my claim that the world is in love with Natalie Portman can't be all that far from the bull's-eye.
Audiences were awkwardly enamored with the startling power of a barely-pubescent Portman in '94s The Professional; they forgave her for the inherent boredom of her George Lucas penned Queen Amidala in Star Wars Episodes I, II & III; and they loved her as a manipulative ice queen in her award-winning role in '04s Closer. Hell, this is the girl who shaved her head for a starring turn in V For Vendetta and still stopped hearts (and even inspired an ill-advised indie band name).
So yeah ... the world is in love with Portman. Fact.
But with all of the prestige heaped upon her in recent months — including her recent Golden Globe win for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama" — the decision (albeit a pre-existing one that dates years back) to follow up such a commanding career booster as Black Swan with the lead female role in a fairly stereotypical romantic comedy may seem a bit odd to some of you. I know I, for one, spent a minute or two scratching my own (Portman-inspired shaved) head when I first heard that she was starring in yet another film in which two friends hatch the plan to introduce sex into their relationship without any icky-sticky feelings to accompany it. (Which always goes oh so well ...)
But as an ever-so-slight-baby-bump-sporting Portman herself (alongside co-star Ashton Kutcher) explained at a recent press conference for the forthcoming rom-com, No Strings Attached was the filmic equivalent of a "palate cleanser." After all, it doesn't matter how expensive and sophisticated dinner may have been – sometimes, on the drive home, nothing in the world sounds better than a Frosty ...
Natalie, you had over a year of really rigorous training for Black Swan. How did you make such a quick turnaround to make this movie? Were there any challenges with that?
Natalie Portman: You're like, "How did you get fat so quickly?" (laughs) It was pretty great ... after that really disciplined, focused, very serious kind of set. I mean obviously everyone is still very professional on this kind of movie ... but everyone's there to play and it was a really great atmosphere. And I didn't have to work out because I was like, "She's a doctor; they don't have time." (laughs)
Ashton, this is Natalie's first rom-com; did you do anything to put her at ease? Or did you just tease her mercilessly?
Ashton Kutcher: I learned more from Natalie in one day of being on the set together than I could ever possibly teach her in a billion years.
NP: Well that's very sweet, but you did.
Did he tease you?
NP: [He] always teases me. He's always like, "Are you wearing flats again?" (laughs)
AK: It was mostly height jokes, and then she would get very upset with me. She looks like my child when we stand next to each other. I asked her if she could reach the pedals in the car one day. That didn't go over very well ...
Thanks for advocating safe sex in your movie — that's a really important message in a movie about sex. Can you guys comment on the prevalence of sex in your movie, and in society, and how that might affect teens? And Natalie, if you wouldn't mind — being pregnant yourself — maybe indicating some moments that might deter teens from engaging in sex and getting pregnant.
NP: (Laughs) Well, I'm not a teen, so ... that's that the first thing I'll say. I'm a grown-up.
AK: Even though she's small.
NP: It's deceptive.
AK: I questioned it myself.
NP: Yeah, obviously [sex] is really prevalent in our country, and I think that's part of what the movie addresses — that we have so much sex in our media that it's dissociated from emotions. We have so much separation between the emotional and the physical side of sex, and they really do belong together. And yes, condoms were fake used in the fake sex scenes in this movie.
Can you talk about what projects you all have coming up and what you're excited about?
NP: I'm cooking a child, so ... (laughs)
Natalie, can you talk about your journey to award season? What's been the best moment so far for you?
NP: It's a big honor to have people be excited about a movie you make. The one thing that you want is an audience to connect with what you make; so it's always really exciting to have that feeling. And I think the best experience so far was that we got to do a roundtable with all the actresses, and it's so rare to get to sit with other actresses of all generations — people who are just starting out, people who have been doing it for 30 years — and hear everyone's experiences and hear what it's like for people to be mothers and actresses. That's the best prize of anything, just to get to hang out with these other women I admire.
Natalie, if you look at Black Swan, No Strings Attached, Your Highness and Thor, this is [a year of] pretty eclectic stuff you're doing. Is this by accident or design?
NP: Well, you have heard the apocalypse is coming, right? 2012 ... Mayan calendar ... thought I'd get it all in there before. (laughs) It was a great opportunity to get to do a lot of different things in a year. And I feel like I learned so much from doing all of these different types of movies back to back, because you bring the research and the seriousness and the discipline of doing a drama into, you know, something like Thor — and you bring the humor and improvisational attitude from something like Your Highness into Black Swan. It was really kind of a lucky order, because I did Your Highness and then Black Swan and then Thor and then No Strings. So it was really interesting. I mean, I feel bad for boring people with my face for a while, but ...
Somehow, Natalie, I think the world will cope. | RDW
No Strings Attached opens 1/21