Date of Birth: June 9, 1981
Place of Birth: Jerusalem, Israel
Sign: Sun in Gemini, Moon in Virgo
Education: Still in high school
ANYONE WHO EVER saw Natalie Portman in Leon, would have instantly known that the actress would become a star, soon.
For someone who's not even sure she wants to be an actress, Natalie Portman is doing a very good impersonation of a successful one.
She may only have a handful of films under her belt, but she's already an A-list actress and teen idol. Even before Phantom Menace made Portman a household name, many teenage boys had already discovered the lanky 18-year-old, through her modeling and roles in films like The Professional, Heat, Beautiful Girls, Mars Attacks! and Everyone Says I Love You.
Born in Jerusalem and raised somewhere on Long Island - Portman's family insists that details of her life (including her real name) be kept secret - Natalie began dancing lessons at age four and was discovered by a modeling agency (Wilhelmina) in a pizza parlor at ten. The next year, Luc Besson cast her in The Professional. After that film, which saw her play an orphan of murdered parents, and Heat, in which she played a suicidal teenager, Beautiful Girls was a breeze. All she had to do was look adorable, precocious and fourteen - all of which she was.
Portman is currently attending college, but as with the rest of her life, specifics are kept secret. Speculation is that the bright youngster is enrolled at Yale, alma mater of Jodie Foster and Claire Danes. But, she is not majoring in drama. "I might major in math, and I'm also seriously considering medicine," she told New York Newsday. "I don't know if I could live with acting my whole life because there are such huge periods between films. I see these twenty-year-old actors who do nothing but smoke cigarettes and go to clubs every night while they wait for their next part, and I couldn't stand living that way." Amazing insight for someone who wasn't born until five years after the original Star Wars was released. "I have doubts whether I want to do this for the rest of my life, but I do love it and don't know if I could give it up. Acting is dangerous work because it's addictive."
The young actress has strict rules for herself, beyond the limitations set by her parents. She turned down the part of Lolita in Adrian Lyne's remake, saying "I met with the director, but I immediately told him there's no way I'm gonna do this movie," she recalled. "Kubrick's film of the book is great because nothing is really shown, but this one [is] explicit. He told me they'd use body doubles, but I said people will still think it's me, so no thank you." Some might find this view incongruous with her performance in The Professional, where she was dressed almost as provocatively - at a much younger age. "I understood what was going on, so it wasn't as if I was being used," she explained to Newsday. "This girl is at an age where she's just starting to learn about sexuality, but there's nothing disgusting in the way it's handled. I felt it was important to maintain her innocence, and when I first read the script, there were a few scenes I felt went too far, so Luc took them out." The scenes excised included nude ones and a few in which her character murdered people. "I am more a teenager than anyone else I know," she told Entertainment Weekly. "One minute I feel really adult and the next minute I say, 'Let's play hide-and-seek.”
As for the mammoth Menace, in which she played Queen Amidala, future mother of Luke and Leia, Natalie was characteristically understated. "I got a lot of fun stuff to do -- run, jump, shoot laser guns." Hanging out with her co-stars wasn't quite what she imagined, though. "I kind of envisioned everyone being in the same hotel - playing and hanging out," she told Premiere. "But Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson have wives and kids. And Jake [Lloyd, who plays her future husband, Anakin Skywalker] was only eight." Still, she found ways to relate to her character, a teenage ruler. "It's funny - it's a galaxy 'far, far away,' and yet the basic themes are so relevant in our world." And she sees Amidala as a positive influence for young girls. "What a cool role model to have - this girl who's 14, running a planet and doing well."
Proving that her talent extends well beyond wearing heavy head-pieces and looking gorgeous, Portman holds her own opposite veteran actress Susan Sarandon in the family drama Anywhere But Here. Where the Heart Is, Portman's latest film, has her in the role of a teenage mother, who was abandoned by her boyfriend while pregnant, at none other than a Wal-Mart. For this performance, Portman is already receiving accolades and applause from the critics. The youngster has received accolades far and wide that would suggest she has a future in any acting pursuit she chooses. Or perhaps, her future might be in medicine.
2002 Star Wars Episode II
2000 Where the Heart Is
1999 Better Living Through Circuitry
1999 Anywhere But Here
1999 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
1996 Mars Attacks!
1996 Beautiful Girls
1996 Everyone Says I Love You
1994 The Professional (AKA Leon)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)