It doesn't really feel like she's been gone that long, since Natalie Portman starred in five films that were released in 2011, and won an Oscar in February for Black Swan in the midst of all of it. But the actress hasn't signed on to any films since giving birth last spring, and she's just now making her comeback in a pretty fantastically splashy way. According to Deadline, Portman has agreed to star in not one but both of Terrence Malick's upcoming films, starting with Knight of the Cups this summer and then Lawless this fall.

It still seems somewhat crazy that Malick, who famously took 20 years to make a follow-up to his sophomore film Days of Heaven, is planning two features this year, with a third, untitled feature allegedly set for release in 2012 as well. Even crazier are the killer casts Malick has lined up for both films-- Cups includes Christian Bale (who starred in Malick's The New World), Cate Blanchett and Isabel Lucas, while Bale and Blanchett will both return for Lawless., which also includes Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Haley Bennett. At least some shooting for Lawles has already happened, with Gosling and Bennett spotted at the Austin City Limits music festival last September, but the plan is apparently to wrap Knight of the Cups first.

I like to imagine Bale, Blanchett and Portman now signing some kind of blood oath to stick together through what's inevitably going to be a long year of working with Malick, who tends to demand a lot from his actors. And given that Portman endured the enormous challenge of starring in Black Swan, it's good to see she's willing to dive into something equally different-- and hopefully just as rewarding. I mean, I don't expect her to win yet another Oscar for this one, but putting two Malick films on your resume isn't half-bad either.

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