Natalie Portman wants to make you laugh.
While she has done movies that tilt towards the humorous, such as 2004's Garden State, she has yet to appear in a flat-out chucklefest.
That will change in a big way next year when she appears in two comedies — both ribald R-rated romps. First up is No Strings Attached, directed by Ivan Reitman and due Jan. 21. She and Ashton Kutcher are best friends who attempt to have a sex-only relationship.
Kutcher has been trying for years to persuade Portman to work with him. "Just to go toe to toe with her everyday was a pleasure," he says.
The petite Portman, whom he refers as a "hamster" in the trailer, also kept him on his toes. "She is really, really, really smart. If you aren't careful, she'll bust your chops. I'd hate to get in a fight with her, even if she is half my size. She'd figure out a way to whip my butt. And God forbid you get into a verbal sparring match with her."
Reitman felt privileged to have Portman as his female lead, so much so that he asked for her input on an early draft of the script and made her one of the film's producers.
"She is one of the great actresses of her generation and a great voice for people in their late 20s and early 30s," he says. "She is as brave in this as she is in Black Swan. It's just a different kind of bravery. She is comedically raw and funny without being silly."
Arriving April 8 is Your Highness, a jokey mash-up of such fantasy epics as Princess Bride, Krull and The Dark Crystal that was shot before Black Swan. Portman is a tough-chick warrior goes on a quest with royal siblings Danny McBride and James Franco to rescue Zooey Deschanel's princess from the clutches of an evil wizard. Stoner gags and bad words are inevitable.
"We had a blast working with her," says McBride, who co-wrote the script directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express). "She was so dedicated. We'd work a 12-hour day and afterward she would go into the ballet studio and work for two hours."
It was Green, who also has done more genteel fare such as All the Real Girls and George Washington, who went after Portman. "We are big fans of Natalie and having someone with gravity and weight was just great," McBride says. "We saw her rap sketch on Saturday Night Live and thought it would be fun to see what she could do as a hardened Red Sonja warrior."
One thing she did do was to wear a bikini top with a skimpy gold thong in an outdoor bathing scene. "She was up for anything," says McBride, whose slacker prince falls for her character.
After the tormented theatrics of Black Swan, making merry comes as a relief for Portman. "These are the kind of movies I like to see most," she says. As for her choices in the future, "I am interested in doing things that are kind of scary."
In fact, she has been inspired enough to write her own randy comedy with a college chum, titled BYO — which translates into "bring your own." The screenplay, which is making the rounds at studios and has been dubbed a female Superbad, is about two girlfriends (possibly Portman and Anne Hathaway) who throw a party where every woman must bring an eligible male.
A fan spoke with Winona Ryder about working with Natalie:
Winona Ryder came into my store to get some vintage jewelry on a break from Black Swan filming (or right after wrap, I can't remember). She bought some stuff and wore it on the red carpet. Between you and I, she says that Natalie is as amazing as we all think she is (those of us who believe she's a real person with flaws of course). She said she's sweet, giving, caring, and most of all hilarious with a lot of perversion thrown in. I thanked her a lot for even bothering to answer questions about a co-worker and she laughed and said, "no that's fine. Talking about me is what's not fun."
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