Natalie Portman the woman behind the ‘Brothers’
It’s an overcast Saturday afternoon, and inside a swanky Manhattan hotel room, Natalie Portman delicately sips on a cup of tea. “I’ve been doing interviews since I was 12,” muses the 28-year-old almost incredulously. For her latest film, “Brothers,” she plays a mother — and a heartbreakingly courageous one, too — for the first time. “I guess it’s a historical feminine trait … to be able to rise to the occasion,” Portman says of her role as military wife Grace Cahill. A welcome respite from the self-proclaimed “cute girl parts” that are often thrust her way, Portman plays Grace with a tenaciousness that she attributes to her extensive research. “I was surprised at how calm and strong these women were,” she says of the time she spent with her real-life counterparts prior to shooting. It’s tempting to assume the sole purpose of director Jim Sheridan’s film — the tale of Grace’s husband (Tobey Maguire), a Marine gone missing in Afghanistan, and his fresh-out-of-jail brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) at home — is to exhibit America’s never-ending war. But on the contrary, “Brothers” is an unflinching look at the conflict’s more intimate face and the families it ravages and ruptures along the way. “I don’t think this is a very political movie,” Portman insists. Not that she’s adverse to epic battles onscreen. She has just wrapped shooting in Northern Ireland for “Your Highness,” where she’ll star as a committed princess defending her kingdom alongside James Franco and Zooey Deschanel. “I kick some serious ass in that movie,” she says.