Happy Birthday Natalie Portman

On 09 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Israeli-born American actress Natalie Hershlag – better known by her stage name Natalie Portman – who was born on this day in 1981. Natalie Portman played Nina Sayers, a veteran ballerina, in Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film Black Swan, a role of which critic Kurt Loder wrote: “Portman gives one of her most compelling performances in this film, which is saying something.” In 2011, Natalie Portman won both the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Black Swan.

Natalie Portman - Black Swan Movie Poster


Natalie Portman’s first film role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 French action film Léon, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005).

Portman as Padmé Amidala

In 1999, Natalie Portman enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while still working as an actress. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2003.

In 2001, Natalie Portman opened in New York City’s Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols; she played the role of Nina alongside Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The play opened at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

In 2005, Natalie Portman received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her performance as Alice in the drama Closer.

Natalie Portman hosted Saturday Night Live on March 4, 2006. In a SNL Digital Short, she portrays herself as an angry gangsta rapper (with Andy Samberg as her Flavor Flav-esque partner in Viking garb) during a faux-interview with Chris Parnell, saying she cheated at Harvard University while high on marijuana and cocaine.

She won a Constellation Award for Best Female Performance, and a Saturn Award for Best Actress for her starring role in V for Vendetta (2006). Natalie Portman portrayed Evey Hammond, a young woman who is saved from the secret police by the main character, V. Portman worked with a voice coach for the role, learning to speak with an English accent, and she famously had her head shaved. Natalie Portman has commented on V for Vendetta‘s political relevance and mentioned that the main character, who recruits Evey to join an underground anti-government group, is “often bad and does things that you don’t like” and that “being from Israel was a reason I wanted to do this because terrorism and violence are such a daily part of my conversations since I was little.” She said the film “doesn’t make clear good or bad statements. It respects the audience enough to take away their own opinion”.

Natalie Portman played the leading role of Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) starring opposite Eric Bana as Henry VIII and Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn.

Movie Poster for The Other Boleyn Girl

Natalie Portman appeared in Paul McCartney’s music video “Dance Tonight” from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full, directed by Michel Gondry. She co-starred in the Wes Anderson short film Hotel Chevalier, opposite Jason Schwartzman. In May 2008, Natalie Portman served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury, and in 2009, she starred opposite Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in the drama film Brothers, a remake of the 2004 Danish film of the same name.

In 2008, Natalie Portman at age 27 made her directorial debut at the Venice Film Festival. “Eve“, a short movie about a young woman who is dragged along on her grandmother’s romantic date, was screened out of competition. Natalie Portman said she had always had a fascination with the older generation, and drew inspiration for the character from her own grandmother.

In 2011, Natalie Portman won the Academy Award, the Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, Independent Spirit Awards, and the BAFTA Award for her lead performance as Nina Sayers in Black Swan. To prepare for the role, she went through five to eight hours of dance training each day for six months and lost 20 pounds.

Natalie Portman began dating ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied in 2009. The couple met while she was filming Black Swan, for which Millepied was the choreographer. In December 2010, she announced that she was engaged to Millepied and confirmed her pregnancy. Natalie Portman gave birth to their first child, a son named Aleph Portman-Millepied, in 2011. In February 2012, it was confirmed that Natalie Portman and Millepied had married in a private ceremony.

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Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake - The Lowry
Matthew Bourne‘s Swan Lake is a different take on the classical ballet. I was very happy when I was able to get a seat to see this. The difference between this and the classic is that men portray the swans.

A young Prince (Simon Williams) has led an ordered life but his mother The Queen (Saranne Curtin) cannot show her love, this is the cause of angst for him. He becomes entranced in his dreams, where the swans appear which enable him to feel some relief from his life.

The torture of the Prince was visible. Even more so when the lead swan (Chris Trentfield) in his dream, seems to be the son of a very important man in reality. The Prince tries to talk to him but is rebuked. Furthermore, the man fancies his mum!

Sending our prince further into despair and imagining the whole place is laughing at him. He begins to descend more and more into his swan-filled world, which ends up in tragedy.

This is one of the best stage shows I’ve seen. The dancers were outstanding. The sets were very clever, in where a bed became a ship; the skills of the dancers to move with the set; and it seem part of the dance I thought was clever. I loved the Swank Bar and the melee that ensued; was both funny and sad.

There’s a princess in pink played by Carrie Johnson who adds some comic touches as she tries to win over the Prince.

The scene when the Prince gets out of bed, attended too by a fleet of maids and valets; was booth amusing and nothing short of a stroke of genius. There was even a toy Corgi dog being wheeled round where it ‘bit’ the Princess. It was hilarious!

The costumes were gorgeous. The palace ball was for me was the highlight. It was marvellously done, with rich touches of furfuran and gold. The mini theatre show in one of the acts was good.

According to the program I bought, there have been a few things that have changed that only the most loyal fans would spot. However, for a first time viewer, it seemed tailored to me and I found no problem following along.

This stage show has been around since 1995 and it’s been worth the wait and the disappointments of not getting a seat. Now all I have to do is see the original Swan Lake.

Please note the dancers do change roles, so I’m listing the ones I saw dancing. (I wasn’t too sure about the Queen though, lots of heavy makeup! So apologies if it’s wrong! The other actress listed was Madelaine Brennan.)

There isn’t a single compliant I have about this production. A splendid outing with lovely music and an outstanding cast. 10/10 from me. Encore!

Image reproduced from The Lowry.