Interview: Natalie Portman, Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
by Daniel Haim
Natalie Portman took the Oscar home last night winning Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. She gave a fantastic speech which you can read below, and also gave a great interview afterwards, which you can also read below.
Thank you so much to the Academy this is insane and I truly sincerely wish that the prize tonight was to get to work with my fellow nominees. I’m so in awe of you. I’m so grateful to get to do the job that I do. I love it so much. I want to thank my parents, who are right there, first and foremost for giving me my life and for giving me the opportunity to work from such an early age and showing me everyday how to be a good human being by example.
And I want to thank my team who works with me every day. Aleen Keshishian, my manager, for 18 years and my agents Kevin Huvane and everyone at CAA. Bryna and Tamar at ID, my friends who are everything to me no matter what’s going on in my career. And everyone who has ever hired me, Luc Besson, who gave me first job when I was 11 years old. Mike Nichols, who has been my hero and my champion for the past decade and now Darren Aronofsky, you are a fearless leader, a visionary. I am blessed to have just gotten to get to work with you every day for the period of time we did.
So many people helped me prepare for this role. Mary Helen Bowers spent a year with me, training me, Michelle Rodriguez and Kurt Froman and Olga Kostritzky, Marina Stavitskaya, and my beautiful love Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed the film and has now given me my most important role of my life. And also there are people on films who no one ever talks about that are your heart and soul every day. Margie and Geordie who did my hair and makeup, Nicci, who dressed me, and Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who designed the beautiful ballet costumes, Joe Reidy, our incredible AD, first AD, and our camera operators J.C. and Steve who gave me so much soul behind the camera everyday you gave me all of your energy. Most importantly, my family, my friends, and my love. Thank you so much.
Here’s the backstage interview with Natalie Portman during the 2011 Oscars
Q. Back in Toronto I asked you if winning an Oscar was a crazy dream. Now that you got it right there, is it like that?
A. Yes, it feels very, very dreamlike right now. I don’t really know where I am.
Q. Would it be too crazy to think you might name your baby Oscar?
A. I think that’s probably definitely out of the question, yeah.
Q. I’m more nervous asking you a question than I was spending time in Iraq.
A. That’s sweet. I won’t do anything bad to you, I promise.
Q. Quick question. Is Nina someone to be admired or pitied, and also do you have a quick message for troops serving around the world watching the Oscars on the Armed Forces Network?
A. Well, I think Nina is probably both. I think her passion is to be admired but her obvious fragile mental state and fragmentation, her identity is definitely to be pitied. And for troops, obviously we just hope they are safe and we have peace soon so that they can come home to their families.
Q. Natalie, as your was name called when you were walking up to the stage, what was the baby doing?
A. Actually, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t really remember anything that happened. But the baby was definitely kicking a lot during the song portion of the show, a little dancer.
Q. So your movie has many different interpretations of the meaning. What’s your interpretation?
A. Well, I think that one of the most beautiful things about the film is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. I really see it as this young woman’s coming of age and that she becomes a woman. She starts out a girl and becomes a woman by finding her own artistic voice and sort of killing the child’s version of herself. She becomes a woman. So I don’t see it necessarily as a death at the end like many people do.
Q. Hi Natalie, congratulations. How does playing a role like this play out in your personal life? Does it come out in your dreams? What happens when you go home?
A. You know, when I was working it was really so it was so hectic. We were just working such long days and sleeping five hours a night and then just starting a day again, and there was so much preparation and so much training that I didn’t really necessarily have time to think about what was happening. And dream wise, I was just so exhausted every day, I was literally just like falling into bed and waking up and going back to set. And I think that sort of pace actually helped me stay so focused for the part. I didn’t have too many crazy dreams. I’m pretty good at shutting off. This one was a little harder to shake. I think just the whole mood of the whole movie was so intense, it stayed with me a little longer than usual.
Q. How do you think becoming a mother is going to change the type of roles that you take?
A. I have no idea. I mean, it’s one of the most exciting things about being pregnant is that I just I’m accepting the complete unknown, it’s a complete mystery and miracle. And, yeah, it’s really just accepting that I have no idea, which is what all of us live every day.
Q. My wife and I were talking about how momentous it is that you are experiencing a few things in your life simultaneously, being pregnant and this Oscar. So years from now when you’re watching the tape from tonight with your young son, what do you think you’ll say in terms of, how do you sum it up, what kind of role did he play in this for you?
A. First of all, I don’t know the sex of my child.
Q. I’m sorry. He or she.
A. Yeah, so with my child’s I think I will just thank them for it’s sort of been a protection. It feels, you know, like a protection against all of the hoopla. And, you know, the part that keeps you centered, where your meaning is, what is actually important in the midst a lot of shiny stuff that is more superficial.
Q. You made yourself bare for all the world to see in this film. Can you talk about how you put your trust in Darren and especially Benjamin, to pull off this physically demanding role?
A. Absolutely. Darren, I think it’s only possible to give yourself so freely when you absolutely 100 percent trust the person you’re working with as your director, because they are responsible for everything. In film it is absolutely a director’s medium and you are completely subject to their artistry, and Darren’s artistry is so extreme that I really felt free to try anything. And Benjamin similarly. You know, I think to be believable as a dancer, I just trusted in him fully to be honest with me, to choreograph in a manner that best flattered what I could do and best avoided what I couldn’t do, and really was catered to making it believable. And he was absolutely the key to credibility for the film, and that was fully on his shoulders.
Q. We’ve talked so much about dreams tonight and we’ve seen dreams come true. What is the next big dream you have and what is the dream that you have for your child?
A. The next dream I have in terms of very short term future is staying in bed, not having to do my makeup or hair, and keeping my sweats on, relaxing. And for my child, I mean, just to be happy and healthy I think is what every parent could ever wish for. Thank you.