We're going to assume you know who Natalie Portman is, but if you need a quick refresher here it is: she was the little tyke in Leon opposite Jean Reno, she was royalty in Star Wars as Queen Amidala and she played a revolutionary in V for Vendetta. Not only that, she's the face of the Dior, and she's university educated - she studied at that instituion known as Harvard (you might have heard of it?). And that's before we've even got to the part where she won an Oscar for her lead role in the dark thriller Black Swan in 2011.
So, what else is Natalie adding to her already huge back catalogue? Well, Thor: The Dark World, of course. As the sequel to the Marvel film Thor, she is reprising the part of courageous astrophysicist, Jane Foster. We had the chance to ask her about her role and what she makes of female superheroes, as well as finding out about her love for author RL Stine and The Baby-Sitters Club books. Yes, that really happened.
Was it satisfying to play the female character who gets to help the superhero?
Of course! It was great that they gave Jane the ability to participate in the action and it’s good because then maybe regular people will feel like they don’t have to be a superheroes to help people.
How important was it for you to play a strong female character [she plays a scientist] and not just be the damsel in distress?
I read about the Bechdel test but before we started shooting so I was like ‘OK, do the female characters have conversations about anything other than the guys?'. What's so great, is that it’s two women talking about their scientific explorations together, which is nice to have in a big movie. I don’t have delusions that it’s going to change the world but there could be one little girl who says ‘Oh, look it’s possible to be an astrophysicist’.
And you didn’t have to wear glasses just to make you look intelligent…
I think it’s one of the old Bond movies where the female scientist wears glasses, as if all of a sudden that makes her look more brainy [laughs].
Would you like to see stronger female characters in movies?
I think what we’re all waiting for is a female superhero. We've already got Scarlett Johansson's character in The Avengers, so hopefully that will happen soon. And you have to think these [the Marvel films] are so popular and there are so many female fans that it’s great to have characters who have interesting lives and goals and aspirations.
What does feminism mean to you?
To me I think that it’s like a sisterhood concept, where we accept each other and make things more possible for everyone. I think that the problem is that there are too many people saying this is what feminism is and this is what it isn't. And telling people you can’t do this, you can’t do that. They tell you what to be like as a mother and as a working woman. It doesn't allow for the individual variation and everyone having to find their own thing. It would be great to take the judgement out of feminism and let’s like support each other. So, if you need a year off after having a baby or if you want to go straight back to work – let’s make both of those scenarios possible. We've got to create a society where it’s possible.
Did you like any superheroes growing up?
I wasn’t really interested in them but books and the characters in them really influenced me. When I was little I thought there were so many different 'types' of girls. So when I was little I’d always think so myself, which character am I? Which type am I? But girls, and young people in general, need to see the range of possibilities, because not all girls have to be scientists, not all girls have to be tough, you know? It’s cool if they want to be moms or be more shy and vulnerable.
What kind of books did you read?
I was such a big dork for The Baby-sitters Club and when I finished I had 250 books. I also had a phase where I read every RL Stine but by the end of that I could figure out the ending and they’d always kill the dog first. And then I had a phase of reading every Holocaust book written for children. I was pretty dark.
What characters were you drawn to in those books?
The Baby-sitters Club had all these different types. There was always the hippie, the tom boy, like the brainy one. I was always the one into fashion. It’s silly because there’s not an understanding that you can be all of those things.
What was your favourite part about shooting the movie? Apparently, you hit Tom Hiddleston around the face…
I don’t think I was supposed to do it but I got really into it! He was cool about it though. I think the best thing about the movie was seeing all the craftsmanship in these movies. You walk onto set and it takes your breath away. There are these huge structures with all the details and all the costumes are so beautiful. And then of course all the computer effects too.
How did you find the costumes?
It was funny as I was worried I didn’t think I would fit in with everyone else in Thor's world. But then I read that’s also the character. I’m not meant to be six feet tall.
Are there any costumes you’ve worn during your career that you love?
Well, the ballet costumes in Black Swan made by the Rodarte sisters were just gorgeous and in Star Wars they were insanely beautiful costumes.
Any outfit in particular?
Actually, the last film I shot - Jane Got A Gun [a Western]. It had the most beautiful clothes. I actually started dressing like that afterwards because it was just so cool. The boots, the shirts - it's strong but feminine
Do you have any style icons?
I'd probably say Sofia Coppola. She always looks beautiful and comfortable and herself.
Do you have a favourite scene from the movie?
When Thor and Jane are about to kiss. And they say ‘what, where...’. It was fun that they were sort of taking the piss out of romantic comedy moments. There’s also a part where I have to have my hair up and they have me on a rig and they had these fans going, it was intense.
How do you wind down after something like that?
It’s pretty easy when you go home and you’re changing diapers.
Thor: The Dark World is out nationwide today