Kevin Feige Clarifies Marvel Studios' Relationship With Natalie Portman After THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Kevin Feige has cleared up Natalie Portman's break from the MCU after her starring role in Thor: The Dark World, a film that reportedly caused tension between the actress and Marvel Studios.

Thor: Love and Thunder features Natalie Portman's triumphant return to the MCU as Jane Foster, a.k.a. The Mighty Thor. But just a few years ago, seeing the actress back in the franchise seemed like a pipe dream. Her last starring role in a Marvel Studios film came in 2013's Thor: The Dark World, a project that was reportedly a source of tension between Portman and the studio. 

For background, when The Dark World was being developed, Marvel Studios hired Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins to helm the film. Portman was reportedly key in bringing Jenkins into the fold, but some time after the announcement, the director and Marvel parted ways over "creative differences." The Hollywood Reporter later stated that the split was due to tension between the two parties. 

Per THR, this purportedly "deeply upset" Natalie Portman, who, according the trade, was planning to take a break from acting, but became excited by the addition of Jenkins to Thor 2's creative team. Ultimately, the actress remained on the project. After that, though, Portman stepped away from the Marvel Universe, and only returned in Avengers: Endgame for a cameo appearance that was mainly achieved through archival footage.

Now that she's back for Love and Thunder, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has shed light on the reported drama surrounding her MCU departure. 

Speaking to Empire Magazine (via The Direct), Feige was asked how Marvel and Portman worked together again after what appeared to have been a problematic split. The Marvel Studios head explained: "[The split] didn't feel that way to [me]. [...] It was [my] impression that if it was an interesting role, she would be game."

Feige's response matches Marvel Studios' apparent amicability toward Portman during Thor 2's development.

In THR's article about the behind-the-scenes drama of Jenkins' Thor 2 firing, the trade reported that Marvel was attempting to better its relationship with the actress, which purportedly involved including her in the process of picking a new helmer for The Dark World (the film would ultimately be directed by Terminator Genisys helmer Alan Taylor). 

Furthermore, while speaking to The Wall Street Journal in 2016, Portman was asked whether she would return to the Marvel Universe. The actress said she didn't expect to, but expressed gratitude for having been part of the franchise: "As far as I know, I'm done. I mean, I don't know if maybe one day they'll ask for an Avengers 7 or whatever, I have no idea. But as far as I know, I'm done. But it was a great thing to be a part of."

While her response could have been a professional way of dismissing a possible Marvel return, it could have also been a hint that Portman left the MCU in relatively good terms with Marvel Studios. 

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Portman stating that her time in the Marvel Universe was done only three years before she'd be announced as Mighty Thor begs the question: What made her return? As she told Variety in 2022, two things encouraged her to wield Mjolnir. Firstly, Waititi's plan to turn Jane Foster into Mighty Thor. Secondly, her desire to make her children excited about her work: 

"I feel like it’s the phase of my career where I'm really trying to just impress my kids. [...] My 5-year-old and my 10-year-old were so enthralled by this process, getting to visit the set and see me dressed up in a cape. It made it really cool. [It's] very rare that my kids are like, 'Please go to work!' Usually, it's quite the opposite."

Yet, re-entering the MCU was not necessarily like riding a bike. In an interview with Vogue Australia, Portman explained she felt both an MCU veteran and an outsider, given how Taika Waititi, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth had become their own team while working on Thor's third outing: 

"It was incredible to get to come back, and also kind of surreal. It's so strange when something is very familiar but also, you're kind of the new kid. Because Chris and Tessa and Taika had worked together on Ragnarok, and so successfully and so, it was like they were all reuniting, and I was this newbie in there trying to figure out how to fit in. But [they're] just the nicest people, and [I] know Chris and Tessa so well from previous work together, and [I had] done Thor movies twice before. So, there was a lot of familiarity and comfort in that world too, but it was this weird mix of being the veteran and the newbie at the same time."

Thor: Love and Thunder is now in theaters. 

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