Natalie Portman joins Marvel's 'Thor'

Chris Hemsworth stars as Norse god of thunder

Natalie Portman has been cast as the female lead in "Thor," Marvel Studios' adaptation of its comic book featuring the Norse god of thunder. Kenneth Branagh is directing.

Portman will play Jane Foster, who in early comic book lore was a nurse who became Thor's first love. The studio said the character will be updated for the feature adaptation, with Foster being a doctor-scientist type.

Chris Hemsworth is already cast as Thor. Tom Hiddleston is Loki, the god of mischief who serves as the movie's villain.

"Thor" is Marvel's stab at an epic fantasy adventure, spanning from present-day Earth to the realm of Asgard. The story centers on Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As punishment, Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans but once here, he learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.

"(Jane) is the human lead, so to speak, who helps ground the film in reality," said Marvel's Kevin Feige, who is producing. "We spend a lot of time amongst the other realms of the Nine Worlds of the Thor mythology and our human anchor to that."

He added: "We wanted to avoid that syndrome of just because the hair is up and they're wearing glasses it means they're smart. ... We wanted somebody that can have the chemistry that the best of our Marvel couples have had, whether it's Tobey (Maguire) and Kirsten (Dunst) or Tony (Stark) and Pepper (Potts)."

Principal photography for the film is set for early 2010. The film will be released in the U.S. on May 20, 2011, distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Portman, repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment, is about to start shooting in Northern Ireland the Universal comedy "Your Highness," directed by David Gordon Green, and shoots David Aronofsky's supernatural thriller "Black Swan" in New York this fall. Her comic book and fantasy movie resume includes the recent "Star Wars" trilogy and "V for Vendetta."