The December T Fashion & Style is always brilliant...I can't wait to get my hands on it this Sunday
Here's the Interview w/Natalie....
Screen Goddess SMART, BEAUTIFUL, REAL — NATALIE PORTMAN REWRITES THE RULES FOR HOLLYWOOD STARS. By Lynn Hirschberg
You have been working a lot: in the next few months, you are starring in the historical drama ‘‘The Other Boleyn Girl’’ and in ‘‘My Blueberry Nights,’’ which is a road-trip movie directed by Wong Kar-Wai.
It was busy last year. I just had my dream job: for the Discovery Channel, I went into the jungle in Rwanda with the mountain gorillas. My mom came, too — I saw a whole new side of her. The silverback gorillas are massive — 400 pounds — and they have 98 percent of the same DNA as humans, and it shows. They can be a little soap opera-ish in their behavior. The baby gorillas would start crawling toward our cameras. They thought the cameras were other monkeys.
You were just a baby yourself when you began working in movies.
I was 11 when I got my first movie role, in ‘‘The Professional,’’ directed by Luc Besson. But I never worked full time. As a kid, I only made one film a year, and it had to be shot in the summer. I didn’t want to leave school [in Syosset, N.Y.]. And my parents felt the same way. They never told me to act — they were hoping I would give it up.
Did you audition for commercials?
Oh, yes. It was fun. I auditioned for everything. When I was 10, I tried out for ‘‘Ruthless!’’ which was basically a musical version of ‘‘The Bad Seed,’’ about a girl who kills to get the lead in her school play. I was chosen as the understudy of the lead. I took over for Britney Spears. Every night, I would watch Laura Bell Bundy, who is now starring on Broadway in the musical version of ‘‘Legally Blonde,’’ and it made me want to act.
And then, I got ‘‘The Professional.’’ Luc Besson told me, ‘‘Don’t do TV.’’ He also told me not to work too often. He wanted me to take my career seriously. I learned a lot from him, from that film. ‘‘The Professional’’ was not a hit, and yet more people mention it to me than anything else I’ve done. That was a great lesson: movies don’t have to succeed right away to have a lasting impact.
When ‘‘The Professional’’ comes on TV, will you watch it or turn the channel?
I won’t watch the whole thing, but it is a picture of myself at a certain time. It’s strange to see how my 11-year-old self had a way to flirt, a way to be angry. It’s like it’s happening to a former self.
You had a kind of precocious child-woman quality in that film that elicited a ‘‘Lolita’’-esque response. Was that unnerving?
Yes. One scene was uncomfortable: when I try to kiss Jean Reno. He was, obviously, much older. And around that time, there was the scene in ‘‘Interview With the Vampire’’ when Kirsten Dunst, who was around my age, kissed Brad Pitt. There were articles about young girls in adult roles, and my family ran away from anything that was ‘‘Lolita’’-esque. And then, of course, they offered me ‘‘Lolita’’ itself. That was the ultimate no.
You were born in Jerusalem and, in spring 2004, went back there, to Hebrew University, to study, among other things, ‘‘the anthropology of violence’’ and to perfect your Hebrew. Were you raised religiously?
No. I didn’t have a bat mitzvah. And we never belonged to a temple. We felt it was ostentatious to belong to a temple. I went back to Israel to learn more about the situation there. I wanted to observe it firsthand.
Did it have anything to do with playing Anne Frank on Broadway? For many Jews, especially those who have experienced the Holocaust, Israel represents a place of refuge and acceptance.
Perhaps. I was 16 when I played Anne Frank. It was tough: I went to high school full time. I was studying for my A.P. tests and my SATs while I was performing eight times a week. The audience reaction, night after night, was really moving. During ‘‘Anne Frank,’’ I really began to understand what Gertrude Stein meant about the power of repetition. Hearing words over and over increases their meaning and their impact.
You never seemed to have gone through an awkward, adolescent phase. Was it hard to grow up in public?
Not really, but there is a moment when the world doesn’t know if you’re a child or an adult. I never had a problem with authority, and I’ve always been well behaved. Maybe I’m just a conformist [she laughs], but for years, the adults around me would pat me on the back and tell me how mature I was for my age. Now that I’m 26, they don’t really say that anymore.
I was once told that the age you are is the age you were when you became who you are. Does that mean I am perpetually 11? I’m not sure I want to have that strict an image. In the movie business, there is such a temptation to stick with a particular persona. There is a kind of artistic branding. Sometimes I think I like the Glenn Gould approach. He obsessively played Bach’s ‘‘Goldberg’’ Variations over and over until he achieved a kind of perfection. Julia Roberts has a Glenn Gould-like career.
And then there is Cate Blanchett. She is different all the time. I respect both approaches, but I don’t really want to always play a version of myself.
The beauty of building an image is then you have something to break.
Is that why you shaved your head for ‘‘V for Vendetta’’?
Not really, but I did like it shaven. Being bald was great, but the regrowth was the problem. My hair is very curly, and I’d have to have someone iron it if I wanted it to be straight. There was a lot of head-burning. And I started craving hair. I wanted to feel like a girl again.
Although you spent large parts of the film in peril, you didn’t die in ‘‘V for Vendetta.’’ As Anne Boleyn, in ‘‘The Other Boleyn Girl,’’ you are decapitated. Was that hard?
No — I’ve died many times. I died in ‘‘Closer,’’ but they changed the ending and, miraculously, I lived. I also died in ‘‘Star Wars’’ and in ‘‘Cold Mountain.’’ Death scenes are not more difficult than other scenes. It’s much harder to laugh than cry. I find it so hard to fake laughing. I have no laugh except my own, and that laugh is very particular, very modern. It’s hard to make any other laugh sound real. It’s like sneezing: you really only have one sneeze