Natalie Portman (born Neta-Lee Hershlag; Hebrew: (June 9, 1981) is an actress, film producer and film director with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was in the 1994 action thriller Léon: The Professional, opposite Jean Reno. She was later cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005).Born in Jerusalem to an Israeli father and American mother, Portman grew up in the eastern United States from the age of three. She studied dancing and acting in New York, and starred in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace while still at high school on Long Island. In 1999, Portman enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology, alongside her work as an actress; she completed a bachelor’s degree in 2003. During her studies she starred in a second Star Wars film and opened in New York City’s Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull in 2001.Portman won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for starring in the 2004 drama Closer, appeared in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith the following year, 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), and also appeared in Thor (2011) and its 2013 sequel. 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.In May 2008, Portman served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury. The same year she 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 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 the Beautiful Girls, for which she garnered significant acclaim 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.
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