Natalie Portman offered lead in 3D survival story
By Jay A. Fernandez
TELLURIDE, Colo. (Hollywood Reporter) - Natalie Portman's highly praised, tortured turn in "Black Swan" could send her career into a new galaxy. Literally.
As Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller rallied audiences at the Venice and Telluride film festivals last week, Portman has fielded an offer from Warner Bros. to play the coveted lead in the drama "Gravity," a role recently vacated by Angelina Jolie.
The $80 million 3D survival story centers on a woman stranded on a space station after satellite debris slams into it and wipes out the rest of the crew. Robert Downey Jr. already has committed to a supporting role, but much of the picture is devoted to the female character, who must survive a solitary ordeal much in the way Tom Hanks did in "Cast Away" or James Franco does in "127 Hours," another Telluride sneak screening.
Alfonso Cuaron, who will direct from a script he wrote with his son Jonas, got the green light from the studio to relay the offer to Portman without requiring a screen test. She is expected to read the latest version of the script this week and decide shortly.
Although Cuaron, Downey and the studio have juggled multiple potential stars, including Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively, none has come up all cherries. But the role now is Portman's if she feels up for it. As an added benefit to the studio, even with a nice raise, her salary would only come in at about half of Jolie's.
"Gravity" is slated to shoot at the end of January, before Downey goes off to other engagements.
Portman already has three projects on their way to theaters: the Paramount romantic comedy "No Strings" in January, the Universal comedy "Your Highness" in April and the Marvel/Paramount comic book actioner "Thor" in May.
But it is her turn as the ambitious but psychologically fragile ballet dancer in "Swan," a role she developed with Aronofsky for years, that has wowed studios and filmmakers scrambling to cast her.
Scuttlebutt at Telluride after its first screenings is that, based solely on "Swan" reviews during the previous few days, Terrence Malick wants Portman for a Jerry Lee Lewis-related project he's developing with Brad Pitt, and Tom Stoppard ("Shakespeare in Love") also apparently is writing something for her. This is in addition to widespread opinion that Portman will be fielding major awards attention at year's end. Fox Searchlight will release "Swan" on December 1.
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