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How Taika Waititi Helped Bring Natalie Portman Back To The MCU

When "Thor: The Dark World" came out in 2013, the prevailing wisdom was that Natalie Portman was done playing Dr. Jane Foster. Rumors circulated that the Academy Award-winning actress did not enjoy her first two outings in the role. It seems Portman did not relish repeatedly playing the damsel in distress and was displeased when director Patty Jenkins was replaced for "Dark World," per The Hollywood Reporter. Speaking to Vanity Fair in 2016 about her future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Portman herself said, "As far as I know, I'm done." So, how did director Taika Waititi convince her to reprise the role in the upcoming "Thor: Love and Thunder"?

The first component leading to Portman's return was Waititi's "Thor: Ragnarok." While the first two "Thor" movies tend to appear low on the list of fans' favorite MCU entries, "Ragnarok" injected new life into the God of Thunder's solo outings. Blending humor, action, and great visuals, Waititi's take on Thor led to critical praise, a box office that greatly surpassed the previous installments, and fans clamoring for more of the character.

Waititi reinvented the Jane Foster character for Love and Thunder

As plans for a fourth film started coming together, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige asked Portman to sit down with Waititi. The director understood Portman's reluctance to reprise a role that had little meat to it. As Waititi told Variety (via Twitter), "No one wants to keep repeating themselves, and no one wants to play the same characters all the time." He added that he understood Portman's original decision, as he also wouldn't want to come back if his character didn't get a chance to become a superhero.

Waititi offered her the chance to take a rather flat character and bring her in an entirely new direction. Laying out his vision for "Love and Thunder", he made it clear that Jane Foster was leaving her damsel days in the past. This new Jane would not only have the depth and dimension previous versions lacked, but she would also become a hero in her own right — the Mighty Thor.

Apparently, all it took for Portman to sign on was seeing what Waititi did with "Ragnarok" and learning what he intended for Jane Foster in "Love and Thunder." The chance to wield Mjölnir probably helped, too.