Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings Interview, THORPosted by: Sheila Roberts
MoviesOnline caught up with Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings at Comic Con last Saturday to talk about their new movie, “Thor,” about a powerful, hammer-wielding warrior who is sent down to Earth as punishment for reigniting a reckless war. But after a dangerous villain from his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth, the arrogant Thor will learn what it takes to be a true hero in order to save mankind.
Natalie plays scientist Jane Foster and Thor’s human love interest. Kat plays Darcy, Jane’s co-worker and assistant. The co-stars of Marvel’s epic tale talked to us about their exciting new action-adventure adaptation, how they prepared for the role, and what it was like working with acclaimed director Kenneth Branagh. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: Natalie, how does Thor compare to the other big movies you’ve done?
Natalie Portman: It was actually a very different experience than those because we were on earth, our section of the film was on earth, there’s very little blue screen work that we did. Also, Ken is such an incredible actor and director for actors that it was a very different experience too, just having someone give such attention to character and performance on a movie of this scale.
Q: Had you been to Comic Con before?
Natalie Portman: Yeah, for V for Vendetta and Star Wars in the same year, so this is my second.
Q: Do they just love you here?
Natalie Portman: Everyone’s always very, very kind. It’s great to be in such a passionate group of people who just love film.
Q: Kat, female parts are usually the lone wolf in superhero movies. Was it nice to have another woman involved not just in the movie, but also as a costar?
Kat Denniing: Yeah, I mean, I think the Darcy role was expanded as we went through the rehearsal process. So she started out as something and ended up as something else. It was pretty great. There is a pretty great female presence in the film with Jane Foster and Darcy and Siff also and Friga, Thor’s mother. I really like, not to be biased, but I really like our relationship in the movie. I mean, we haven’t seen any of it but I know. I feel like our love in real life came out.
Natalie Portman: Yeah, Kat and I knew each other before the film and were good friends before, so it was great to get to play and laugh throughout.
Kat Denniing: Poor Stellan.
BP: Yeah, Stellan Skarsgard was the third. We were like a little trio but he was constantly like these two giggling girls and was always rolling his eyeballs.
Kat Denniing: Talking about boys and nail polish. He had to sit there and take it, poor guy.
Q: Any jealousy that you’re playing mere mortals?
Kat Denniing: I felt really good about it actually.
Natalie Portman: Yeah, when they were being screwed in and out of their costumes and couldn’t pee for 15 hours straight, I was feeling really good about being in sweatpants and flannel shirts.
Q: Jane Foster is often the bridge between Thor and earth. Is her role in the film similar to that?
Natalie Portman: Yeah, I think definitely that is part of her role in the movie. It sort of grounds him. He’s exiled to earth to learn humility. I think her earthiness is part of hopefully what transforms him. There are definitely changes in the character from the comic books but that is certainly one of the things that has stayed.
Q: What was Kenneth’s direction like?
Kat Denniing: Pretty great. He’s someone I always idolized for acting. I’ve seen Much Ado About Nothing at least 800,000 times. He’s just so gifted in that there isn’t one moment that wasn’t explained thoroughly. There wasn’t a second for me at least that I didn’t completely understand what was going on because he tells you everything and he makes sure you’re not feeling lost. I can’t say enough.
Natalie Portman: Yeah, he’s an absolute master. The attention he gives to character on a movie of this size is absolutely remarkable because it’s very easy to get lost in needing to do special effects, cover all of this action. People forget often characters so never for one second did he let that go, always, always, always. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must have been at the end of the day.
Kat Denniing: And he was really great too because he would ask us, he would usually ask a question and then in answering it you came up with what your character’s going through but he led you to that answer. The fact that you had to come up with it yourself really made it part of you and inside of you. It was a really amazing experience and he has infinite ideas for how to attack something and just infinite good mood. That’s crazy. Every day was fun.
Natalie Portman: And the pressure and stress of something like this film, you’d never see that with a director, just being always wholly energetic and always positive. You just wanted to go to set in the morning. He would like entertain us. Between scenes he would tell us funny stories and interesting tidbits and anecdotes. We’d always learn something on set.
Kat Denniing: I would kind of creepily watch him do things, just try to steal a little genius.
Natalie Portman: It was fun watching him behind the monitor too because he sort of goes through it with the character. He sort of acts with it unconsciously so he’ll be behind the monitor and he’ll be like [gesticulating] doing all this.
Kat Denniing: It’s pretty cute.
Natalie Portman: Pretty amazing.
Q: Natalie, guys are hitting on you in the panels. What’s the boldest move a geek has pulled here?
Natalie Portman: No, I won’t - - I think we can be geeks too. But yeah, guys definitely proposed last time I was here. I’m sure it was a joke.
Kat Denniing: No.
Natalie Portman: I could have really freaked him out and been like, “When? Let’s do this! Where’s my diamond?” But that didn’t happen.
Kat Denniing: Something just happened in our panel a little bit. I was trying to warm you up and someone got a boner.
Natalie Portman: I was freezing. I was literally covered in goosebumps and Kat was like - -
Kat Denniing: I was just like [blowing] trying to warm her.
Natalie Portman: And the guy’s like ahhhhh, woo! Really? Please stop.
Q: Did Kenneth get you to prepare any specific way?
Natalie Portman: I was thinking more about when we had rehearsal where they used chairs. Very high tech rehearsal for a jillion dollar budget but they used chairs to build different spaces, like these kinds of chairs in an empty room. Then we would have to do the scenes and act around the chairs as if they were like buildings or cars. We had to sit in a car and pretend we were driving.
Kat Denniing: I did this a lot to pretend, to try to look cool. And I didn’t have a license at that time either so it was acting.
Natalie Portman: She drove a really, really difficult car.
Kat Denniing: But I never got to actually drive it on the road, remember? And I was so good at it. What was it called? A Pinsgaller.
Q: They didn’t give you Thor comics to read?
Natalie Portman: Well, we definitely got lots of Thor comics and Ken gave me a lot of books on female scientists and their experiences which is really interesting.
Q: Did you get to incorporate gangster rap into Jane?
Natalie Portman: Yes, yes, yes.
Q: Did you keep anything from Star Wars?
Natalie Portman: I’m not at liberty to say.
Q: Tell us about Thor.
Kat Denniing: It is about the god of thunder. I mean, what? Did you see the trailer?
Q: How was it received?
Kat Denniing: It was amazing. We had never seen any footage so we were there right along with everybody else. It was pretty exciting.
Q: People don’t think of the female characters in Thor. What did you have to make your characters interesting?
Natalie Portman: Well, Ken and I talked a lot before we started about how to make Jane like a realistic scientist on screen, not just make her someone like the Denise Richards in Bond with the glasses and so she’s a scientist. But we talked about how real scientists are kind of like artists. They’re able to imagine things that aren’t there and to give her the sense that she’s sort of frazzled and she’s always thinking in abstractions and that there’s a poetry to it. So that’s where we started it from and also that she has some family things that echo Thor’s familial situation so that there’s that sort of bond between them. Obviously they have a common quest because he’s trying to get back home and her whole interest of study is these connections between dimensions. Darcy - -
Kat Denniing: Is useless.
Natalie Portman: No.
Kat Denniing: Darcy makes food for Jane and mixes her Kaschi in the morning and basically she’s a new invention. She’s not in the comics. She just sort of hopes to be like Jane one day.
Natalie Portman: She’s a hesitant student.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge of stepping into something with such a huge fan base?
Natalie Portman: Well, one of the interesting things about the comic books is that they were written over several decades with several different writers and artists so there’s very different stories, very different tones, very different artwork, very different places the characters go and depictions of the characters. The challenge, more for the writers than for us even, but for the writers and for Ken as the director, is finding one tone, choosing which of the stories to tell because obviously all of these are sagas that have gone on for decades and whether to include certain characters or add others, which details to keep and which details to spare.
Q: Are there differences between your character in the movie and the comic books?
Natalie Portman: Oh yeah, very. For example, Jane in the comic books is a nurse and now she’s an astrophysics doctoral candidate. Things have been updated. Women can be scientists in different ways now.
Q: How much of the comic book did you go back and read?
Kat Denniing: I’ve read a lot of the comic books just growing up, and I felt for me anyway that I should view the script as its own thing and not try to compare and contrast the previous stuff and just treat it like its own little universe. And Darcy wasn’t in the comics so I didn’t have to worry about continuity or anything like that.
Q: If you could be a superhero, what power would you like?
Natalie Portman: Teleportation. Useful.
Kat Denniing: Power of healing. That would come in handy a lot. With the guy who got stabbed in the eye today.
Natalie Portman: Poor guy, did you guys hear about that?
Kat Denniing: That’s not cool.
Natalie Portman: At the panel, someone stabbed a guy in the eye with a pencil and they had to - -
Q: When you were in there?
Natalie Portman: No, no, no, right before but it was delayed and we were delayed like an hour. I hope he’s okay. We haven’t heard anything about this person if they’re okay or not.
Kat Denniing: We hope that he’s okay. We were like, “What’s going on? Why aren’t we going and doing our panel.” They were like, “Well, someone got stabbed.” So don’t stab. Don’t stab. That’s not okay.
Q: Kat, how was your experience on a big set with crazy costumes?
Natalie Portman: Burger King billboards?
Kat Denniing: Yeah, right? Southwest billboards? Huge and crazy. Remember Luke had his own - - our first AD had his own voice throwing equipment so he was standing in video village and he’d be like, “Back to ones.” His voice would echo through the whole outside.
Natalie Portman: Megaphones and everything.
Kat Denniing: There were hidden things. It was pretty big budget I would say, pretty nuts. And everyone was so good at their job. If you were like, “Oh, man, I could really use a piece of toast made out of rubber,” somebody would be like, FWING! They were so prepared it was amazing.
Natalie Portman: You know, everyone always champions the low budget independent stuff but it’s nice when people get compensated for their work. Like you see an entire crew getting paid for their jobs, there’s something to be said for that because when movies are made for no money, that means that everyone’s basically volunteering. Everyone’s like, “Yay, you made it for no money.” You’re like you’re making people work in a sweat shop.
Kat Denniing: I just came off of one of those. I had come off of something that was done for like two dollars and then I came and did this. I was like oh my god. This is awesome. It felt good. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty great. I don't know how many more movies I’ll be in like this but it was good to have one.
Natalie Portman: Appreciate the experience.
Kat Denniing: I really do. I cherish it.
Q: How long does it take for Jane to figure out Thor’s character?
Natalie Portman: Well, I don’t want to give anything away but yes, there is a period where they’re just like, “This guy’s a weird alien. Why is he acting that way?” It was definitely a fun aspect to play sort of the ability to believe in things that are unbelievable.
Q: Can you talk about Chris?
Natalie Portman: Well, I will just gush now. Chris is a fantastic actor, has a very quiet confidence. He’s not showy or show-offy in any way but is able to walk into a room with Ken Branagh and act his pants off and not be intimidated, and is able to shoulder this responsibility of taking on this huge character with incredible grace and is firmly implanted on the ground, is so kind, just decent human being. Universally nice to everyone, genuinely nice, very funny, very - - I have no doubt that he’ll be a massive star. He’s just very talented and a very, very good person.
Kat Denniing: He deserves all the success in the world. He’s a good boy.
“Thor” is scheduled for theatrical release on May 6, 2011.