Mike Fleming

What fortuitous timing for Natalie Portman’s tour de force in Black Swan to be unveiled on the festival circuit! The Oscar buzz for her performance certainly helped Portman get the offer for the female lead in the Alfonso Cuaron-directed 3D thrill ride Gravity. When Deadline described Warner Bros’ dilemma last week as it tried to find an actress who could carry nearly the entire $80 million film on her shoulders following Angelina Jolie’s decision to pass for a second time, we reported that the studio was focusing on Portman and Sandra Bullock. The movie belongs to the actress and not co-star Robert Downey Jr., who’ll spend only about three weeks filming. Portman, who is more age-appropriate for the role as Cuaron and his son Jonas wrote it, is an intriguing choice here and it seemed just a matter of time until she found her breakout vehicle.

From her childhood roles in The Professional and Beautiful Girls to her shockingly adult turn in the little-seen Mike Nichols-directed Closer, Portman has always been an out-sized talent waiting to grow past her youthful look. It’s also hard not to root for the 29-year old Portman, considering how badly she wanted the Lisbeth Salander role in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which begins this fall with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Portman tried very hard to buy the book series before Sony Pictures Entertainment and producer Scott Rudin got it. Director David Fincher wanted a fresh face, and he chose Rooney Mara, his discovery from The Social Network. Barring some unforseen circumstance–insiders confirm Warner Bros has made an offer–Gravity will be that big studio showcase for Portman. Let’s just hope she doesn’t lose interest in playing Elizabeth Bennet in the Jane Austen-inspired Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which David O. Russell hopes to direct for Lionsgate. Because that just sounds sooo cool.

Angelina Jolie Pass Puts ‘Gravity’ In Shaky Orbit For Warner Bros