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Marvel Entertainment Natalie Portman in Thor Love and Thunder (2022)
"It's pretty unusual and wonderful to be tasked with getting bigger as a woman," said Portman, who focused on strength training and sauna sessions to help build muscle.
She joked of having to drink lots of protein shakes, "I don't think I'll ever have one again."
Portman makes her triumphant return to the Thor franchise in Love and Thunder, where her astrophysicist character Jane reunites with her God of Thunder ex (Chris Hemsworth) — and becomes his mighty hammer Mjölnir's new primary wielder, as the Mighty Thor.
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Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
"Most of the body transformations we're asked to make are to be as small as possible and there's an emotional and sociological correlate to that," Portman told the Times of being a female actress.
"For someone to say, 'Let's see how much strength you can have,' is a completely different psychological space to inhabit," she added. "I turned 40 while making the movie and it was an incredible point in my life to say, 'You're going to be the fittest, strongest version of yourself.' "
Filmgoers have seen Portman's growth onscreen for almost 30 years, after she made her now-famous movie debut in 1994's Léon: The Professional.
Of being sexualized onscreen at a young age, the Oscar winner told the Times, "I think, in that time, it was very normal. ... Some of it was the types of roles that were being written and some of it was the way journalists felt entitled to write about it."
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage
Portman said she remembers once "reading a review of myself when I was about 13 that mentioned my breast buds."
She went on to turn down roles that would involve love/sex scenes as a result of her "defenses," explaining, "It was like, I'm not going to be seen that way, because it felt like a vulnerable position and also a less respectable position, in some way, to be characterized like that."
Thor: Love and Thunder earned $143 million across the United States in its opening weekend, according to data from Box Office Mojo. The film also earned $159 million in movie theaters internationally, bringing its global total thus far to $302 million.
The movie has earned the third-best opening weekend for a film this year, following behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (also from Marvel) and Jurassic World: Dominion, per Variety. It also ranks as the 11th biggest global debut for a project in the MCU, the outlet added.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in theaters now.