Why Did Natalie Portman Quit the MCU?

Natalie Portman didn’t die in Thor: The Dark World, at least not physically. Having appeared in Thor and its sequel, her character, Dr. Jane Foster, was nowhere to be seen in Thor Ragnarok. Jane was name-checked in passing in the film.

Why did Natalie Portman attend the ‘Avengers: End Game’ premiere?

Portman surprised everyone by showing up at the Avengers: Endgame Los Angeles premiere Monday night. So does it mean that she’s in the new movie, or is she just an old friend saying hi? Fans speculated wildly on Twitter and other social media, with @damerogers tweeting, “JANE FOSTER WILL DEFEAT THANOS #NATALIEPORTMAN pic.twitter.com/GEU9WGYFpd.

Who needs Captain Marvel when you have Jane Foster? After all, Brie Larson is hardly the only Oscar-winning actress ever to appear in a Marvel movie. Then again, nobody expected Thor’s nemesis Hala to show up in Endgame, and Cate Blanchett didn’t appear at the premiere so maybe an Academy Award isn’t the best barometer for the MCU.

Besides, Portman herself had said she was done with Marvel — not in a dismissive way, she just figured they didn’t need her anymore.

“As far as I know, I’m done,” she had said in a Wall Street Journal interview. “I mean, I don’t know if maybe one day they’ll ask for an Avengers 7, or whatever.”

For the record, this is Avengers 4, or Avengers 3 — part 2, depending on how you do the math.

Natalie Portman before the MCU

Although Natalie is certainly no stranger to blockbusters, she seemed more at home in independently-minded films. She burst onto the scene in one of those, Luc Besson’s The Professional, in 1994 at age 13. She quickly scored parts opposite Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s crime thriller Heat and opposite Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks.

It wasn’t long after that she landed the role of Queen Amidala/Padme in the Star Wars prequels. Audiences liked her character, but some criticized her performances in those movies as uncommonly stiff and wooden. Fans said perhaps George Lucas didn’t direct her well, or maybe Portman was the type of actor who responded better to actual people and props rather than an endless array of green screens for visual effects to be added later.

Those theories seem to be borne out by Portman’s later work. She earned her first Oscar nomination in Mike Nichols’ Closer, and she won an Oscar for playing a disturbed ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

If Natalie Portman had a hammer

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Last night at the Avengers: Endgame premiere

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The green screens returned when Marvel asked her to appear in Thor. Her performances in the two movies didn’t attract a ton of attention. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, behind the scenes, things got sticky when future Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins either left the project over “creative differences” or was fired, depending on who you talk to. Either way, Portman, a staunch advocate of feminist causes, was not pleased.

Alan Taylor took over the directing chores and Portman stayed with the movie, primarily because she was under contract. But once she held up her end of the deal, she was gone.

“There’s a real arrogance,” an anonymous film agent said of studios at the time. “But in this environment where everybody’s struggling to stay employed, their behavior is amplified.”

And agents can’t combat that. “We don’t have leverage,” he says. “The movies are the stars.”

Flash forward to 2019, and there’s Portman on the red carpet for Endgame. Since Thanos demands everyone’s silence, she apparently didn’t say anything. But a review of her IMDB credits shows she’s in the movie. Is it a flashback from happier times with Thor? Was she turned to ashes by Thanos’ snap? Was she a figment of Thor’s imagination? Or is this Disney synergy with her making an appearance as Amidala with a crossover into the MCU?

One thing’s for sure. A whole lot of people will find out this weekend.