Friday, January 21, 2011

Natalie Portman – Movies Spotlight – January 2011

Natalie Portman is best known for her daring roles as a child-actor, Padme in the new Star Wars Trilogy and being one of the best actresses of her generation, culminating in a likely Best Actress Oscar this February for Black Swan. Throughout her career, she has managed a good mix of prestige and big films, with a few rom-coms thrown in. This month she stars alongside Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached, a romantic comedy about two friends that engage in a strictly sex only relationship only to find that they want more (trailer).

Early Career:

Portman began her career at the age of four, taking dancing lessons and performing as part of a local troupe, which is where she got her absolute love of dancing and ballet (leading to her always wanting to do a film about a dancer which finally became Black Swan). Then at age ten, she was offered to be a child model for Revlon but turned it down to focus on acting, spending many school holidays at drama camps. She auditioned for the off-Broadway show Ruthless! about a girl who would kill to get the lead in a school play. Portman ended up being the understudy for Laura Bell Bundy – the other understudy was Britney Spears. Then in 1994 she got her big break, as she was cast by Luc Besson in his hit man film The Professional. The role was very adult-like and caught the attention of many critics and filmmakers. Once cast, she decided to use her grandmother’s maiden name “Portman” as her stage name.

Building Her Career After Her Breakthrough:

With the critical and commercial success and rave reviews for her performance in The Professional, Portman had good roles for great directors coming her way. She got a supporting part in Michael Mann’s superb crime-drama Heat, which again saw her character shown in a very adult situation and she got to share scenes with Al Pacino. Next, she had a major role stealing the heart(s) of the main character and the audience in Beautiful Girls. Woody Allen then cast her in his musical romantic comedy Everyone Says I Love You. She also played the daughter of the President of the United States in Tim Burton’s outrageous comedy Mars Attacks!. At this point in her career, she had quite a track record working with some of the best directors and making interesting films. She was also Baz Luhrmann’s first choice to play Juliet in his Romeo + Juliet, but producers felt she was too young. She took a break from film in 1997 to star as Anne Frank on Broadway.

Star Wars and Harvard:

Then came international recognition in 1999, as she took the role as Padme in her first blockbuster: George Lucus’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (or as we call the trilogy, the films that ruined Star Wars). That year she also got her first award recognition, being nominated for a Golden Globe for her supporting performance in Anywhere But Here. Initially, she had turned down the role because her character had a sex scene, but co-star Susan Sarandon and director Wayne Wang were set on having her in the film and had the script rewritten. She next stared as a teenage mother in Where the Heart Is. Upon completion of the film, she moved into the dorms at Harvard University, where she would graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, focusing on her studies, filming her part in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones during her summer break. She also had time to take the role of Nina in Mike Nichols’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Seagull, which opened in 2001 on New York’s Public Theater and co-starred Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Philip Seymour Hoffman. She additionally filmed a small role in the multiple Oscar nominated Cold Mountain and finished her commitment to the Star Wars Trilogy with Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the biggest box office film of her career.

Hollywood Leading Lady:

With school and Star Wars behind her, Portman decided to take a role in Zach Braff’s indy comedy Garden State, a film that immediately returned her to darling status among film fans, as it and her performance were well received (not to mention that her character introduces The Shins to the world). Next she worked again with Mike Nichols playing a pole-dancer who seduces Clive Owen in Closer, which garnered her first Oscar nomination (for supporting actress). Continuing her string of critical successes, she next starred in the very well received graphic novel adaptation V for Vendetta, which marked her first (true) leading role in a big film. Continuing to work with top directors, Portman next starred in Milos Forman’s Goya’s Ghosts, took a supporting role in Kar Wai Wong’s My Blueberry Nights and co-starred with Jason Schwartzman in Wes Anderson’s prologue to his fantastic film The Darjeeling Limited (which she also has a cameo in) Hotel Chevalier. However, next she would take roles in the critical and commercial flops Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and The Other Boleyn Girl. Portman returned, however, with great performances in Jim Sheridan’s Iraq War drama Brothers and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies with her tragic and beautiful performance.

Future Projects:

Portman has been busy and has a packed upcoming schedule with six potential films being released in 2011 (plus she is currently pregnant and engaged). First she has this month’s No Strings Attached (mentioned above). Next on the slate is David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Ben Best’s adventure stoner comedy Your Highness (which looks amazing), co-starring James Franco and McBride. From her digital short with Lonely Island, Portman has shown her knack for silly comedy (and I am really interested to see how this film turns out). In May, she has her next big blockbuster starring in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor (trailer), as Chris Hemsworth’s love interest (not sure if she will make it into Joss Whedon’s Avengers film though). She also has Hesher co-starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Other Woman a film about a woman’s difficult relationship with her stepson (trailer) and the sci-fi film Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer (though it will probably be pushed to 2012) potentially with 2011 release dates.

Natalie Portman’s Selected Career Highlights:

1.)    The Professional (1994)* – lead – available on Blu-ray/DVD
2.)    Heat (1995)* – supporting – available on Blu-ray/DVD
3.)    Beautiful Girls (1996) – supporting – available on DVD
4.)    Mars Attacks! (1996) – supporting – available on Blu-ray/DVD
5.)    Garden State (2004)* – lead – available on DVD
6.)    Closer (2004) – supporting – available on Blu-ray/DVD
7.)    V for Vendetta (2006)* – lead – available on Blu-ray/DVD
8.)    Hotel Chevalier (2007)* – lead – available on Blu-ray/DVD
9.)    Brothers (2009) – lead – available on Blu-ray/DVD
10.) Black Swan (2010)* – lead

*editor’s picks

Natalie Portman’s filmography is also available on to rent and stream.

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