For “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Natalie Portman is returning not only as Jane Foster — the brilliant astrophysicist and ex-girlfriend of Asgardian warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) — but as the Mighty Thor, Jane’s superhero persona when she comes into possession of the mystical hammer Mjolnir.
Becoming a Marvel Studios hero meant Portman worked with a trainer for 10 months before and during shooting to build up her muscle mass in a way she’d never been asked to before.
“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.'”
Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.
“As a 5-foot-3 woman, I don’t know that I’m ever going to be cast again as a 6-foot character,” Portman said with a laugh. “I really relished people seeing me as big.”
To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get.
“We’d rehearse the scene, they’d see the path, and then they’d build a path that was like one foot off the ground or whatever, and I would just walk on that,” Portman explained.
When Variety asked Portman’s costar Tessa Thompson — who is reprising her role as Valkyrie from 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” — about the process to embiggen Portman’s Mighty Thor, the actor immediately broke into laughter.
“They would call it a deck, but depending on the accent, sometimes it sounded like something else,” Thompson recalled. “Because we’re all children.”
“It was actually one of our running jokes,” Portman said before leaping up from her chair with a grin. She began demonstrating how Hemsworth would contort his body to cross over the deck during shooting without breaking his stride. “Chris would have to …” she said before attempting to take a wide step while keeping her head level. She giggled: “They’d all have to navigate my deck!”
The experience of becoming a Marvel superhero also gave Portman a new perspective on what Hemsworth has had to do for over a decade to maintain his Asgardian physique.
“It’s a quite intense and quite disciplined lifestyle to get to that appearance,” she said. “Chris works so, so hard. Just constantly, every time he has a break, he has to be doing some sort of training. … It’s also the eating and saunas and ice baths and sleep, all this stuff to get everything looking right. It’s a full-time job!”