Natalie Portman Now Negotiating For Lead In Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity'

One step forward. After Angelina Jolie passed twice on the role, Alfonso Cuarón decided to offer the lead role in his space-set thriller Gravity to Natalie Portman. Now the actress is reportedly in active negotiations to take the role of a woman who is trying to negotiate her way back to safety after she's stranded in space during a routine repair mission.

Cuarón reportedly wanted Portman thanks in large part to her work in Black Swan, and put the offer out to her for the picture in early September. Warner Bros. has been said to be nervous about the financial prospects of the film, which is budgeted at around $80m and features the lead actress alone on screen for most of the running time. The idea is that a marquee actress is needed to sell the film. Jolie is an obvious choice; with Portman on board, I wonder if Cuarón will be asked to reduce his budget, which has been discussed as a possible necessity. Robert Downey, Jr. co-stars in a smaller role.

The news was buried in a THR piece announcing that Warner Bros. had picked up an untitled pitch from Jonas Cuarón (son of Alfonso, and Gravity's co-writer) that is "a gritty thriller set in Mexico City." No further details on that script, nor does the trade offer more info about Gravity.

Here's what we've known:

The script follows Ryan Stone, an engineer whose career path unexpectedly puts her on a space shuttle, doing repairs. (In a more recent draft, she's working on repairing the Hubble.) She's paired with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski. But things go very wrong. The Russians just blew up something that "creates a chain reaction of spraying debris that hits multiple satellites, which also end up exploding, and all of a sudden thousands of pieces of debris are heading straight towards the space shuttle."Cutting forward a bit, that debris destroys the shuttle and eventually leaves Ryan alone, trying to make her way to the International Space Station and rescue. ScriptShadow says:

Everything that can go wrong does go wrong as the movie becomes a series of near death experiences. Ryan must jump from point to point – whether it be to a vessel, a station, or an oxygen tank – and survive long enough to make the journey to the next point after that (and so on). Each destination is accompanied by dangerous debris, dropping oxygen, and the strong chance that whatever she's trying to get to might not be there. Think Apollo 13, but with the odds stacked 1 million times higher against you, if that's possible.