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Ghost Canyon

NEW! Natalie Portman ('Lucy In The Sky') NEW! Natalie Portman ('Lucy In The Sky')

'Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you're gone!'

Natalie Portman has played lots of different royalty, so to speak, from a galactic queen in the Star Wars prequels to a first lady in Jackie O.

But in the new movie 'Lucy in the Sky', Portman plays a member of an even more rarified club: an astronaut.

When we meet Portman's character Lucy Cola, she is one of the first female astronauts to venture into space. But her adjustment back to Earth is uneasy, and she quickly spirals out of control.

The character is inspired by the real story of astronaut Lisa Nowak, who was charged in 2007 with attempted kidnapping of the then-girlfriend of a man with whom she was having an affair.

For Lucy, the experience of going to space has been transformative. "It's so remarkable that this moment, that can be the most beautiful moment of her life and probably is the most beautiful moment of most astronauts' lives is also the moment where they face the smallness of everything they've ever known, and everyone they've ever known, because they see how the Earth is situated, and how small it is, and how they can literally cover it with their outstretched hand," Portman says. "And so to have those simultaneous experiences, I think, can be pretty jarring."

I find it amazing, still, that a lot of female characters often function reductively. Do you find that too, from your own standpoint? "Yes, I think that often female characters are reduced to single-word descriptive possibilities."

"I think people talk a lot about "strong" women or "badass" women or "tough" women or "victims" or "villains." I mean, there's almost a genre of films about men who are lovable but curmudgeons. There's so many male characters that [have] contradictory qualities, which is the most human kind of behavior, in my view."

And what about the question of who gets to direct female-driven movies? "It's actually really disturbing to me when people ask male directors how they feel telling a female story if they can do it. And I'm like: We take it for granted that they can tell stories about serial killers."

"Like, if you can get into the mind of a serial killer, why can't you get into the mind of a woman? I don't think there's anything qualitatively different about women directors or men directors except that women directors get way fewer opportunities."

"So yes, I'm very conscious of working with female directors. I am a female director. I think women directors need more opportunities at every level."

"And the more disturbing thing is male directors who only tell stories about men because then I feel like they do not consider female stories as human stories."