A year ago, Natalie Portman was the hottest actress around. The “Black Swan” star was sweeping awards and earning the sine qua non of actor heat, the "Saturday Night Live" parody. She even survived an ill-timed dorky laugh.
But Portman didn’t get to indulge in the main perk that comes from winning an Oscar — booking a big, prestigious movie. Portman was five months pregnant when she accepted the golden statuette last February, and pretty much stopped working afterward so she and costar/choreographer Benjamin Millipied could have their son, Aleph, who was born in June. She hasn’t worked since. (Portman could be seen in several movies last spring — “Your Highness” and “Thor” — but she shot those before her pregnancy.)
Could Portman soon be coming out of her baby-induced hiatus? According to a person briefed on the project who was not authorized to talk about it publicly, the actress has been courted by Lana and Andy Wachowski to star in “Jupiter Ascending,” the science-fiction movie the filmmakers aim to shoot when they finish cutting their much-anticipated “Cloud Atlas.” Portman, the person said, was seriously weighing taking the part.
“Jupiter,” a Warner Bros. project whose plot details have remained tightly under wraps, would reunite Portman with the “Matrix” filmmakers after the two collaborated on the graphic-novel adaptation “V for Vendetta” back in 2006. And “Jupiter” tentatively aims to start production in the fall of 2012, which would give the actress more time with her infant if she wanted it. A representative for Portman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
“Jupiter” wouldn’t be the first science-fiction film Portman has expressed interest in; for a time she was set to star in “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron’s space-traveling tale, before dropping out. (Sandra Bullock, who won the lead actress Oscar the year before Portman, wound up with the part.)
In the meantime, Portman also could be getting busy on a more starchy subject on the other side of the camera — she’s keen on making a documentary about veganism based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals,” according to items posted Wednesday. She’s also attached to “Thor 2,” but there’s no word on whether Marvel will move forward with the sequel.
Of course, the larger question is whether Portman will be able to regain the heat she had a year ago. Producers and the public often don’t bat an eye at a year at a small maternity leave. But they also have short memories — just ask Julia Roberts, who for a time slipped down the Hollywood food chain when she took time off to raise a family.
Photo: Natalie Portman in "Thor." Credit: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel Studios