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The Real Reason Natalie Portman Left Marvel (and Why She Came Back)

Thor (2011) Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
Natalie Portman used to be one of the biggest actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her role as Jane Foster was inspiring to women everywhere. Then, suddenly, she disappeared. Then, just as suddenly, she was back.

Whatever happened to Natalie Portman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Why did she disappear and why did she come back?

Here are all the reasons Thor's girlfriend Jane Foster wasn’t in Thor: Ragnarok but will be in Thor: Love and Thunder.

Portman Won an Oscar

Natalie Portman has an interesting career. Before "Thor", her best-known role was as Darth Vader’s girlfriend Padme Amidala in the "Star Wars" prequels. It's a role that she ultimately regretted but she was thrilled to be involved in a new franchise. Portman played the role opposite Chris Hemsworth and was looking forward to more. But then something bigger than "Thor" came along.

In 2010, she starred in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological horror film Black Swan. The role earned her critical acclaim as the overachieving ballerina. It also won her a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and even an Academy Award.

Suddenly playing in a comic book movie didn’t sound so glamorous. But there are Oscar winners in the MCU like Anthony Hopkins who plays Odin, so why not come back?

Jane Foster Isn’t In Space

Astrophysicist Jane Foster was the love of Thor's life and the reason he became worthy enough to wield the hammer. So, why isn’t she in Thor: Ragnarok? In the run-up to the Thor movie, Chris Hemsworth said she wouldn’t be in the movie because he's in space. "He's off exploring the universe, still trying to police it and control the mayhem," Hemsworth to Entertainment Weekly. “But he's certainly enjoying being a drifter, being a solo cowboy out there."

Jane enjoys being on Earth and she appears to enjoy being on Terra Firma. Apparently quite a bit of Thor: Ragnarok takes place in space. But it still doesn’t explain why she’s not in the movie.

Thor And Jane Broke Up

While Foster showed up in Thor: The Dark World she was missing from Avengers: Age of Ultron and the movie implied the two were having problems.

When Chris Hemsworth hosted a sketch on "Saturday Night Live" in 2015 he played Thor and referred to Jane Foster as his "ex".

In Thor: Ragnarok it confirmed that the two broke up. When some fans come up to him and say "Sorry to hear that Jane dumped you."
"She didn’t dump me,” he said in response. "I dumped her. It was a mutual dumping."

But that doesn’t explain why she's not in Avengers Infinity War. In Avengers 2 Stark implied he and Pepper Potts were having problems but we saw her in "Spider-Man Homecoming" and she’s back in "Avengers: Infinity War".

So, what’s Portman's excuse?

Portman Has Kids

In December of 2010, Natalie Portman announced her pregnancy with her husband French ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied. Her son Aleph was born in June of 2011. She went on to have two kids along with her daughter Amalia in 2017.

Having a family changed her and she, as many actors do, began to focus more on her family than her career.

In 2011 she compared her career to Audrey Hepburn who famously put her acting on hold to raise her family. “Audrey made some good choices in life… More and more I realize how unimportant it is to be in the history books or anything like that,” Portman told The Sun Magazine. “Putting time and energy.”

After her husband was made the Paris Opera Ballet's director of dance in 2014 they moved to France. Natalie Portman has since returned to acting and starred in "Annihilation" (2018) among other films.

The point is she decided she didn’t want to act anymore anyway. Much less a superhero movie where she plays a "damsel-in-distress".

But that can’t be the only reason. Most of the female actors play second banana to the hero. Gwyneth Paltrow has a similar role but she came back for several movies and told Cinema.com she loves that she's a "strong woman and kind of the moral center of the story". But why would Portman duck out and Paltrow stay in? Here’s the real reason.

Portman's Angry About the First Female Marvel director

After the success of "Thor", the studio made plans for a sequel. Reportedly Natalie Portman didn’t want to do it but something changed her mind. The studio signed on Patty Jenkins. Portman was especially keen to work with her after the success of Jenkins 2003 Oscar-winning film "Monster".

Portman agreed to play on Thor 2 because she thought she would play a role in Marvel Studio's first movie with a female director. Marvel had other ideas. Jenkins was fired. While Marvel said it was an amicable split a source said she was painfully fired without warning. Worse yet Portman didn't find out about the bombshell news before it hit the news.

After the blockbuster success of Wonder Woman, Jenkins said losing the director's chair for Thor 2 was “painful and sad” but said “You have to make sure that the movie you want to make is fully the right movie for that studio too. It was heartbreaking, but also knew that it was good.”

Portman was less philosophical at the time and reportedly was furious. The Hollywood Reporter said she was “deeply unhappy with Marvel over Jenkins' dismissal but is contractually obligated to stay with the project.”

Marvel tried to smooth things over by giving her a part in picking the replacement but the damage was done. Portman was professional during the press tour but never went back to Marvel Studios again for Avengers: Age of Ultron or Thor: Ragnarok. When The Wall Street Journal asked about her future in the MCU she said “As far as I know, I’m done. 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.”

Later on, she said she'd be open to returning, but it looks like Marvel has already moved on. Patty Jenkins went on to direct the blockbuster Wonder Woman movie. Marvel Studios eventually did hire female director Anna Boden along with co-director Ryan Fleck for Captain Marvel.

Everything worked out OK. But the real reason Natalie Portman isn’t in Avengers: Infinity War is because Marvel Studios canned Patty Jenkins.

Female Superheroes Rock

But what made her decide to return to the MCU? The chance to play a female superhero. Women have changed a lot in the Marvel Studios movies. Avengers: Endgame has a scene that highlights it when all the women come together to protect Captain Marvel.

When they decided to bring Foster back as the new Thor, officially known as "Mighty Thor", they pitched it to Portman.

"We love the story [of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s Thor and The Mighty Thor] - it's one of the best comic runs recently," Feige told CNN. "[Director Taika Waitit] would flip through and read that run while he was doing 'Ragnarok.' And I think when he agreed to come back and do another Thor, he was like, 'How do we--?' This is a very big movie that'll be folding in a lot of elements. That is a huge important part of it. He pitched it to us, and we were totally in. We loved it. We'd been in touch with Natalie. She's part of the MCU family and we put she and Taika together. It took one meeting and she agreed to do it."

It only took one meeting to reverse six years of hatred for Marvel. Why? Because it elevates Jane Foster to a new level. She goes from the damsel in distress to damsel to impress. She's a woman taking on a new era of heroes.

That's enough to inspire an Oscar-winner to get back on board.

What do you think of Natalie Portman coming back to the MCU? Do you miss her? Should she return?

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