“The last thing we need is nuclear physicist Denise Richards”: The James Bond Movie Natalie Portman Can Thank for Her Marvel Role

Kenneth Branagh was really impressed by Natalie Portman's intelligence.

The James Bond Movie Natalie Portman Can Thank for Her Marvel Role


  • Kenneth Branagh was "very taken" with Natalie Portman upon meeting the actress.
  • He didn't want a female physicist in Thor that would end up like Denise Richards' character in James Bond.
  • The director talked about his unique interpretation of Thor's story in the movie.
Show More
Featured Video

Marvel fans first met Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in 2011’s Thor, a physicist who would later become the love interest of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Helmed by Kenneth Branagh, the first installment of the Thor franchise saw the adventures of the God of Thunder as he tries to prove himself worthy of the mythical hammer, Mjölnir.

Natalie Portman as Jane Foster in Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster in Thor

Portman’s role was more than just the pretty eye candy; she was able to discover the astronomical anomalies happening on Earth through her scientific research. Like her brilliant scientist character, Portman was a psychology graduate from Harvard.

RELATED: “It’s fun to watch and sometimes scary”: Natalie Portman Was Intimidated While Working With One of the Best Actors of this Generation Christian Bale


Kenneth Branagh Was So Mesmerized With Natalie Portman’s Intelligence

Thor’s co-screenwriter Zack Stentz revealed in an excerpt from MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios how director Kenneth Branagh perceived Natalie Portman when he first met the actress. He stated via Vanity Fair:

He was very taken with her, not in a romantic way, but with her intelligence. Jane is a physicist, and we needed someone who could convey that intelligence. That’s what struck him about her: He said, forgive me, ‘Because the last thing we need is nuclear physicist Denise Richards.’

Denise Richards and Pierce Brosnan
Denise Richards and Pierce Brosnan

Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist in the 1999 James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. Her performance was critically panned that she took home a Razzie award for it. The actress expressed her dismay after fans slammed her s*xualized role in Pierce Brosnan’s film. She told USA Today:

So many people made fun of how I was dressed when the movie came out. That’s part of the appeal of Bond. These Bond girls are so outrageous, and if I did really look like a scientist, the Bond fans would have been disappointed.”

RELATED: “The nature of the beast”: Before Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman’s Open Hatred for Star Wars Nearly Tanking Her Career Until $329M Movie Won Her Best Actress Oscar

Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh

Meanwhile, Stentz recalled Branagh wanting to make some modifications in the first Thor movie. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige had to stop the filmmaker from changing the name of Thor’s hammer. The writer mentioned in the same excerpt above:

One of my most vivid memories of those notes sessions was Branagh didn’t like the name Mjölnir because it’s difficult to pronounce. He turned to all of us and asked, ‘Do we have to call the hammer ‘Mjölnir’? I see that it’s made out of some metal called ‘Uru.’ Could we call it Uru instead? Or would the fanboys string me up?’

Feige warned the director that the fanboys would definitely string him up if he changed the name. Meanwhile, Natalie Portman agreed to join the Marvel franchise hoping Branagh would make her character “super weird.”

RELATED: Sean Connery Reportedly Returned as James Bond Just for Revenge – 6 Other Stars Who Came Back to Their Own Franchises After Turning Their Backs on Them


Kenneth Branagh’s Unique Take On The 2011 Thor Movie

Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in Thor
Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in Thor

In the same interview from MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, Kenneth Branagh said his interpretation of the first Thor movie was to bring out the Shakespearean aspects of its Nordic mythology. The director shared:

If the actors take those stakes seriously, it is passionate and very intense. That observation of ordinary human — although they’re gods — frailties in people in positions of power is an obsession of great storytellers, including Shakespeare and including the Marvel universe.”

Branagh also mentioned how the famed playwright incorporated different variations of mythology into his works and compared it with Marvel legend Stan Lee’s comics stories:

Shakespeare was interested in the lives of the medieval royal families, but he also raided the Roman myths and the Greek myths for the same purpose. I think Stan Lee went to the myths that Shakespeare hadn’t used.”

Indeed, the first installment established Thor and his family as a lineage of powerful gods that people once thought were just characters from children’s bedtime stories.


RELATED: “It’s a pitiful tale”: Satoshi Kon Called Out Natalie Portman’s ‘Black Swan’ Director as Hollywood Mercilessly Ripped-Off His Movies Including Inception


Written by Ariane Cruz

Articles Published: 2017

Ariane Cruz, Senior Content Writer. She has been contributing articles for FandomWire since 2021, mostly covering stories about geek pop culture. With a degree in Communication Arts, she has an in-depth knowledge of print and broadcast journalism. Her other works can also be seen on Screen Rant and CBR.