LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hot off a Golden Globe win for her performance as an unhinged ballerina in the psychological thriller "Black Swan," Natalie Portman is making a sharp about face by taking on her first romantic comedy.
Portman, also seen as an Oscar front-runner for "Black Swan," stars opposite Ashton Kutcher in "No Strings Attached", which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday. The duo play friends who decide to have a strictly physical relationship but before long, their emotions creep in and mess up their groove.
It's a surprising departure for an actress who is better known for roles in science-fiction (the "Star Wars" prequels), action ("V for Vendetta"), period ("The Other Boleyn Girl") and dramas ("Closer").
"That was exactly why I was excited about doing something like this, because I hate repeating myself," said the 29-year-old. "I really love comedies -- it's my favorite genre."
And after a physically and emotionally demanding role like "Black Swan", which was followed by upcoming special effects laden comic book adaptation "Thor," the Ivan Reitman-directed "No Strings Attached" came at just the right time.
"When I got this, it was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do because it's the kind of movie I'd want to see," Portman said.
Doing a romantic comedy is not the only first for Portman this year. The actress is center stage at Hollywood awards season, while pregnant, after capturing several wins for her turn as jealous dancer Nina Sayers in "Black Swan".
Portman is expecting her first child with fiance Benjamin Millepied, a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet who she met when he served as choreographer for "Black Swan."
So, in an era when red carpet fashion is almost as important as who wins, Portman's gowns must accommodate her growing belly -- all while the actress battles a craving for pickles.
"I want sour stuff and I want pickles," she said. "Anything with lemon or vinegar or ketchup on it makes me very happy."
Oscar nominations are announced next week, but Portman says that being pregnant has kept her from getting too caught up in the awards race.
"It's nice to have real life, good stuff going on at the same time," she admitted.
Real life also includes promoting several other upcoming movies, including period comedy "Your Highness" in April, and "Thor" in May.
"Then you won't hear from me for a while," Portman joked. "So everyone will be able to take a deep sigh of relief!"
When she does decide to return to movies, there will be no worries jumping back in to show business.
"It has been really comforting to see my heroes -- people I look up to like Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman -- all of whom had kids and still have really interesting careers.
"I asked Cate Blanchett once, 'How do you do it? How are you such a good mom and do such good work?' She was like, 'You just do it.' And of course, that just makes sense. Not to say that it isn't hard, but you just figure out how."
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bob Tourtellotte