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Natalie Portman Bio
Natalie Portman (born June 9, 1981) is an actress, producer and director with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was in the 1994 action thriller Léon: The Professional, opposite Jean Reno, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005). In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while still working as an actress. She completed a bachelor’s degree in 2003.
In 2001, Portman opened in New York City’s Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov‘s The Seagull. Portman also starred in the 2004 drama Closer, and won a Constellation Award for Best Female Performance and a Saturn Award for Best Actress for her starring role in the political thriller V for Vendetta (2006). She played leading roles in the historical dramas Goya’s Ghosts (2006) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). In May 2008, she served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury. Also in 2008, Portman directed a segment of the collective film New York, I Love You. Her first feature film as a director, A Tale of Love and Darkness, was released in 2015. Portman is also known for her portrayal as Jane Foster, the love interest of Marvel superhero Thor, in the film adaptation Thor (2011), and its sequel, Thor: The Dark World (2013).
In 2010, Portman starred in the psychological horror film Black Swan. Her performance received widespread critical acclaim and she earned her first Academy Award for Best Actress, her second Golden Globe Award, the SAG Award, the BAFTA Award and the BFCA Award in 2011.
Portman started dancing lessons at age four and performed in local troupes. At the age of 10, a Revlon agent asked her to become a child model, but she turned down the offer to focus on acting. In a magazine interview, Portman said that she was “different from the other kids. I was more ambitious. I knew what I liked and what I wanted, and I worked very hard. I was a very serious kid.”
On school holidays, Portman attended theater camps. When she was 10, Portman auditioned for the 1992 Off-Broadway show Ruthless!, a musical about a girl who is prepared to commit murder to get the lead in a school play. Portman and future pop star Britney Spears were chosen as the understudies for star Laura Bell Bundy. In 1993, she auditioned for the role of an orphan child who befriends a middle-aged hitman (played by Jean Reno) in Luc Besson‘s film, Léon: The Professional. Soon after getting the part, she took her paternal grandmother’s maiden name, “Portman”, as her stage name in the interest of privacy and to protect her family’s identity. Léon: The Professional opened in 1994, marking her feature film debut.
During the mid-1990s, Portman had roles in the films Heat, Everyone Says I Love You, and Mars Attacks!, as well as a major role in Beautiful Girls. She was the first choice to play Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, but producers felt her age wasn’t suitable. In 1997, Portman played the role of Anne Frank in a Broadway adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank.
Also in 1997, Portman was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The first film, The Phantom Menace, began filming in June 1997 and opened in May 1999. Following production on The Phantom Menace, she initially turned down a lead role in the film Anywhere but Here after learning it would involve a sex scene, but director Wayne Wang and actress Susan Sarandon (who played Portman’s mother in the film) demanded a rewrite of the script. Portman was shown a new draft, and she decided to accept the role. The film opened in late 1999, and she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ann August. Critic Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon called Portman “astonishing” and said that “[u]nlike any number of actresses her age, she’s neither too maudlin nor too plucky.” She then signed on to play the lead role of a teenage mother in Where the Heart Is, which opened in April 2000.
After filming Where the Heart Is, Portman moved into the dorms of Harvard University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She said in a 1999 interview that, with the exception of the Star Wars prequels, she would not act for the next four years in order to concentrate on studying. During the summer break from June to September 2000, Portman filmed Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in Sydney, along with additional production in London.
In July 2001, Portman opened in New York City’s Public Theater production of Chekhov’s The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols; she played the role of Nina alongside Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The play opened at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. That same year, she was one of many celebrities who made cameo appearances in the 2001 comedy Zoolander. Portman was cast in a small role in the film Cold Mountain alongside Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.
In 2004, Portman appeared in the independent movies Garden State and Closer. Garden State was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and won Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. Her performance as Alice in Closer earned her a Supporting Actress Golden Globe as well as a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
The final Star Wars prequel, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, was released on May 19, 2005. The film was the highest grossing domestic film of the year and was voted Favorite Motion Picture at the People’s Choice Awards. Also in 2005, Portman filmed Free Zone and director Miloš Forman‘s Goya’s Ghosts. Forman had not seen any of her work but thought she looked like a Goya painting, so he requested a meeting.
Portman hosted Saturday Night Live on March 4, 2006. In a SNL Digital Short, she portrays herself as an angry gangsta rapper (with Andy Samberg as her Flavor Flav-esque partner in Viking garb) during a faux-interview with Chris Parnell, saying she cheated at Harvard University while high on marijuana and cocaine. The song, titled “Natalie’s Rap,” was released – alongside other sketches from the show – in 2009 on Incredibad, an album by the Lonely Island.
V for Vendetta opened in early 2006. Portman portrayed Evey Hammond, a young woman who is saved from the secret police by anarchist freedom fighter V. Portman worked with a voice coach for the role, learning to speak with an English accent, and she famously had her head shaved.
Portman has commented on V for Vendetta ’s political relevance and mentioned that the main character, who recruits Evey to join an underground anti-government group, is “often bad and does things that you don’t like” and that “being from Israel was a reason I wanted to do this because terrorism and violence are such a daily part of my conversations since I was little.” She said the film “doesn’t make clear good or bad statements. It respects the audience enough to take away their own opinion”.
Both Goya’s Ghosts and Free Zone received limited releases in 2006. Portman starred in the children’s film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which began filming in April 2006 and was released in November 2007; she has said that she was “excited to do a kids’ movie.” In late 2006, Portman filmed The Other Boleyn Girl, a historical drama in which she plays Anne Boleyn; Eric Bana and Scarlett Johansson co-starred.
In 2006, she filmed Wong Kar-wai‘s road movie My Blueberry Nights. She won acclaim for her role as gambler Leslie, because “[f]or once she’s not playing a waif or a child princess but a mature, full-bodied woman… but she’s not coasting on her looks… She uses her appeal to simultaneously flirt with and taunt the gambler across the table.” Portman voiced Bart Simpson‘s girlfriend Darcy in the episode “Little Big Girl” of The Simpsons‘ 18th season.
She appeared in Paul McCartney‘s music video “Dance Tonight” from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full, directed by Michel Gondry. Portman co-starred in the Wes Anderson short film Hotel Chevalier, opposite Jason Schwartzman. In May 2008, Portman served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury, Portman’s directorial debut, Eve, opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival‘s shorts competition in 2008. The short film, about a young woman who is dragged along on her grandmother’s romantic date, was screened out of competition and Portman drew inspiration for the character from her own grandmother. In 2009, she starred opposite Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in the drama film Brothers, a remake of the 2004 Danish film of the same name.
Portman played a young ballerina in Darren Aronofsky‘s 2010 film Black Swan, a role of which critic Kurt Loder wrote: “Portman gives one of her most compelling performances in this film, which is saying something.” To prepare for the role, she went through five to eight hours of dance training each day for six months and lost 20 pounds. In 2011, she won both the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Actress.
After Portman’s Oscar win, controversy arose over who performed the bulk of the on-screen dancing in Black Swan. Sarah Lane, one of Portman’s dancing doubles in the film, claimed that Portman performed only about five percent of the full-body shots, adding that she was asked by the film’s producers not to speak publicly about it during the Oscar season. Director Aronofsky defended Portman by issuing a statement insisting that Portman performed 80 percent of the on-screen dancing in the movie. Portman was trained by professional ballerina Mary Helen Bowers for her role in the film and later wrote the foreword to Bowers’ book, Ballet Beautiful.
Portman co-starred in the 2011 film No Strings Attached, alongside Ashton Kutcher. She was also an executive producer on the film. She then starred in Your Highness, opposite James Franco and Danny McBride, and also played the role of Jane Foster in Kenneth Branagh‘s superhero film adaptation Thor. In 2010, Portman dropped out of the lead role of Elizabeth Bennet in the novel adaptation, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but she will continue to be the producer of the film.
In 2010, Portman signed on with Dior and appeared in several of the company’s advertising campaigns. In October 2012, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority banned a Dior advertisement that featured Portman wearing Dior mascara after a complaint from Dior’s competitor, L’Oreal. The ASA ruled that the photographs of Portman “misleadingly exaggerated the likely effects of the product”.
By February 2012, Portman had signed on for two Terrence Malick projects, one named Knight of Cups and one yet untitled, both planned for release within two years. In April 2012, Portman starred in Paul McCartney‘s music video, “My Valentine”, alongside Johnny Depp. Portman is scheduled to star in the Western film Jane Got a Gun.
In July 2013, Portman announced she had chosen an adaptation of Israeli author Amos Oz‘s autobiographical novel A Tale of Love and Darkness as her directorial feature debut. Portman also starred in the film and was a co-writer on the script. A Tale of Love and Darkness premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
In May 2015, Portman signed on to play the title role in director Pablo Larrain “Jackie”, a biographical drama about 1960s American First Lady Jackie Kennedy following the death of her husband, President John F. Kennedy
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