Natalie Portman won best actress at the 2011 Golden Globes in light of her performance in Darren Aronofsky’s ballet- thriller, Black Swan. The 29 year old actress has seen a huge amount of success during her career and with every role she plays it becomes all the more evident that there’s a very good reason why. Going back from Black Swan to... egg... we take a look at Natalie and how her career has progressed from child actor to one of the most significant talents of modern cinema.
Born in Jerusalem and named Natalie Hershlag, the actress-to-be moved to America with her parents when she was three years old and would eventually settle in New York. She was originally scouted and asked to become a child model when she was about ten, but decided to pursue an acting career instead. She is reported to have said that she always felt that she was more ambitious than most other children and proved this by not only fulfilling her dream of a life on screen but also managing to graduate from Harvard University. When she began acting professionally, it was decided she would take her Grandmother’s maiden name, Portman, as her stage title and so the star we know and love was born.
Her first major role was in Leon (The Professional) in 1994. In this she played the part of Mathilda, a young girl whose entire family is murdered by a corrupt police officer and subsequently develops a somewhat unusual relationship with her contract-killer neighbour, Leon (Jean Reno). The level of maturity shown by Portman in this film is incredibly impressive, and it was obvious there was something very special about her as soon as this film was released. There are very few child actors that can portray a character’s emotion as convincingly as was necessary for films such as Leon to be a success, and at the time Natalie Portman was most definitely one such actor. The only real modern day comparison would be Chloe Moretz of Kick-Ass fame, and if Portman is anything to go on, Moretz has a very bright future ahead of her.
The role of Mathilda (a very young girl in the care of a middle-aged man) did cause some controversy however, from which Portman’s family suffered some problems. Many argued that, despite showing no scenes of a sexual nature, there were implied paedophilic undertones and that Mathilda’s relationship with Leon was more than just a friendship. However, the film, by French director Luc Besson, was still a huge hit and is considered a classic by many.
Natalie’s performance in Leon received such acclaim that saying her career has been healthy since would be a severe understatement. Her talent has landed her roles in major (but perhaps not as successful) outings such as Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! and V for Vendetta (based on the comic by the great Alan Moore).
But it was 1999 when Natalie became truly world-famous, as this was the year she would feature in the highly anticipated Star Wars prequel: The Phantom Menace. In this series of films, her character Padme (or Princess/Queen Amidala) was revealed to be the mother of one of Science Fiction’s most famous heroes, Luke Skywalker (a role that was not taken lightly by fans of the series). Afterwards, she starred in two critically acclaimed comedy dramas, Anywhere but Here and Where the Heart Is. Her 2004 performance in Closer was also nominated for an Oscar.
So what’s next up for Natalie? Other than Black Swan, her upcoming major productions are Marvel’s Thor and comedy, Your Highness. Your Highness, also starring James Franco and Danny McBride, is a Medieval tale of an evil wizard who steals the bride (Zooey Deschanel) of the honourable prince Fabious (Franco). During his attempt to retrieve his bride Fabious is unfortunately burdened with having his useless, party-loving brother Thadeous (McBride) accompany him, with Portman playing Isabel, a princess who aids them on their ‘perilous quest’. From trailers so far, this looks pretty hilarious, and coming from the director of Pineapple Express it wouldn’t be surprising if it were. For anyone who likes the sound of it, you can see it in UK cinemas from 13th May this year.
Her award for Black Swan, and of course any future awards, are entirely deserved. Natalie Portman is an astounding actress with a portfolio to be proud of and no doubt a future to look forward to. And it’s safe to say that we all look forward to watching that future in our local cinemas…
Female First - Fareed Athman