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Natalie Portman on the Challenges of Wearing a Spacesuit for ‘Lucy in the Sky’

Natalie Portman has a long history with space.

She’s been to a galaxy far, far away in “Star Wars,” traveled between worlds for “Thor,” and now she’s playing an astronaut in “Lucy in the Sky.” But first, she had to put on the spacesuit.

“It was really complicated. I was shocked at how many people it required,” she told Variety at the film’s premiere on Wednesday night at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. “The real ones weigh like 300 pounds — of course, not the movie one — but it was interesting to inform the physicality. They have to be quite strong because even though it’s weightless in space, the force pressing against you is so extreme. It was really wild and exciting and kind of like a childhood dream come true.”

Portman’s co-star Jeremiah Birkett agreed, adding that the slo-mo space walk came easy because it was impossible to move quickly while wearing the heavy costume.

“I needed two people to put it on me,” he explained. “It’s really heavy and claustrophobic. You have the weighted shoes, weighted suit, you feel like, ‘Oh crap, I’m the guy. I feel this.'”

Lucy in the Sky” is one of many space movies hitting theaters this year. This one is more of an intimate character story than a sprawling spectacle, more in line with Brad Pitt’s “Ad Astra” than “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.” “Lucy in the Sky” follows the mental unraveling of Portman’s character after she returns to Earth from an extended interstellar mission and is also loosely based on real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak’s public love triangle and arrest from 2007. Since the film spends more time on Earth than it does among the stars, does it qualify as a “space movie?” The cast presented both sides of the argument.

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“Most space movies focus on the going out into space. This one focuses on the coming back,” Jon Hamm told Variety. “I think it’s an interesting choice and a very unique perspective. What happens to people when they’re confronted with this incredibly vast and unique experience? How do you manage to get up and go to the grocery store and do dry cleaning when you’ve been in space and have seen the Earth from a couple hundred miles up?”

Director Noah Hawley contends that his film falls into more than just the sci-fi genre.

“I call it a magic-realism astronaut movie,” he told Variety. “It means that it’s not a literal story on some level. We’re using aspects of magic realism to put you into her point of view. She’s a character that starts in one place and experiences an existential crisis and psychological decline, and I want you to go with her and experience that with her. You’re feeling it viscerally. You’re not sitting and judging her, you’re pulled in with her.”

With all the space movies that have come before “Lucy in the Sky” and all the ones sure to come after it, Hawley offered an explanation why people love watching them: “Jon says in the movie, ‘No matter how complex the universe is, it’s still simpler than life on Earth.’ I think when life on Earth gets really complicated and stressful, we look to the stars.”

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