LOS ANGELES — For Natalie Portman, 2011 is already shaping up to be an unforgettable year.
The actress is getting big awards buzz for her turn as a ballerina gone mad in "Black Swan." She already won a Golden Globe, she's up for a Screen Actors Guild award and she's sure to hear her name when Oscar nominations are announced next week. Portman also has four other movies slated for release this year – including the first produced by her own company.
Oh, and she's pregnant with her first child and engaged to be married.
"I'm very, very excited," she says during an interview to promote her romantic comedy "No Strings Attached," which opens Friday. "I feel very, very lucky."
And maybe just a bit overwhelmed.
Ever poised in interviews, and always the picture of perfection at events, the Harvard grad and Oscar nominee (for 2004's "Closer") says having four movies in the pipeline at the same time she's starting a family is "a little insane."
Not that she's letting it get to her – or letting it show, except for maybe the family part. Though she has a spate of scheduled appearances coming up – awards shows, film festivals, premieres – she's not dashing around town juggling meetings and fittings. Instead, the star who recently relocated to Los Angeles from her hometown of New York says she's just relaxing with her mom and enjoying the West Coast weather.
"I think because so much is going on, it's just sort of going over my head," Portman says, her petite frame folded on a sofa, her hand intuitively resting on her bourgeoning belly. "I don't know that I'm taking it all in. I'm just like, 'Oh, the sun is shining. I'm with my mom. I'm with my dog. Life is good.'"
Indeed, things are good for the 29-year-old. She's engaged to Benjamin Millepied, a ballet dancer and choreographer who worked on "Black Swan," and they are expecting their first child together. He was her date at the Globes, and when she was named best actress in a drama, she thanked him for "helping me to continue this creation of creating more life."
Portman is also giving life to new movies through her production company, handsomecharlie films. The company's first feature, "Hesher," in which she stars with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, premiered at Sundance and is set for release this year. Handsomecharlie is also developing "Best Buds," a road-trip tale of a bride-to-be who staves off a nervous breakdown by hanging with her friends and smoking marijuana. Portman is set to star.
"We like all sorts of movies: drama, thriller, sci-fi, comedy," she says of herself and producing partner Annette Savitch. "But I think something that definitely appeals to us, just because of the lack of it, is strong female comedies, and also female friendship movies – unlike 'Black Swan' where they're ripping each other's hair out – where girls are funny, supportive friends for each other."
Portman dabbles in on-screen female friendship in "No Strings Attached." She plays Emma Kurtzman, a doctor for whom love is like a nasty rash: irritating, painful and best avoided. Meanwhile, her colleagues (played by Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling) want boyfriends and lament the lack of good guys out there. They support Emma as she enters a sex-only relationship with Adam (Ashton Kutcher), zinging one-liners and cracking wise throughout.
It's the rare romantic comedy where women get laughs, Portman says.
"I had been looking for a funny female character for a long time," she says. "I feel like in romantic comedies often it's just the girl who gets to kind of wear cute clothes and wants to get married at the end, which is always fun to watch but it's not necessarily a challenge or exciting to do."
Director Ivan Reitman says Portman found the script on her own and asked for the part. He recalls being surprised at her interest, then met with her.
"I realized as I was talking to her: Oh, this is the girl," he says. "She is as smart as this character is, because she needs to be that intelligent, but more than that, she has the strength that this girl has, and she has the complexity to portray somebody that is a little bit messed up."
The role called for Portman to be saucy, sexy and even drunk in one scene. Her character is bold, confident and sexually self-assured – the complete opposite of her award-winning "Black Swan" character, who is repressed, girlish and afraid.
The back-to-back contrasting roles was "one of those sort of accidents," the actress says.
"I'd been with 'Black Swan' for 10 years before it got made, and I'd been with this movie for like three years before it got made, and it just happened to get financing in the same period," she says. "But it's always welcome to completely shed a character and do something very, very different."
She'll be seen in two more very different roles this year. She plays a warrior opposite Danny McBride and James Franco in the comedy-adventure "Your Highness," and a human friend of a Norse god in Marvel Studios' anticipated "Thor."
Portman might be promoting her movies through most of her pregnancy.
"The thing that's great is that I'm really proud of all the movies. I'm really excited about every single one," she says. "I don't think it's great that they're like all in this time period. I wish they were more spaced out, but I don't really have control over that. But at least people won't see my face for awhile afterwards."
For now, though, expect Portman aplenty in what's becoming Natalie's big year.