Natalie Portman talks “Black Swan,” Oscars – FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

By Sean O’Connell Next week, audiences finally will be able to witness the force of nature that is Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” The actress delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, playing Nina, a dancer overwhelmed with the need to be perfect now that she has earned the lead role in a performance of “Swan Lake.”

Recently, Ms. Portman spoke about her preparation, her diet, and her reaction to the ongoing Oscar race. Here is Natalie Portman in our For Your Consideration column.

Q: How did you approach the complete physical and psychological transformation Nina undergoes over the course of the film?

Natalie Portman: It was a great challenge, and I had really, really amazing support. All of the teachers, coaches, choreographers and my director, first and foremost, were shaping and pushing along the way.

But I started with my ballet teacher a year ahead of time … and she started very basic with me. We would do two hours a day for the first six months that was really just strengthening me so that I could do more without getting injured. Then at about six months, we started doing five hours a day. We added in swimming, so I was swimming [on top of] three hours a day of ballet class. Two months before, we added in the choreography, so we were probably doing 8 hours a day.

The physical discipline of it really helped for the emotional side of the character because you get the sense of this kind of monastic lifestyle, of only working out, that is a ballet dancer’s life. You don’t drink. You don’t go out with your friends. You don’t have much food. You are constantly putting your body through extreme pain. You get that understanding of the self-flagellation of a ballet dancer.

Q: What was the first guilty pleasure meal you ate after your rigorous physical training was complete?

I believe it was pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every meal. All of the time.

Q: You also studied psychology while at Harvard. How would you diagnose Nina’s mental health?

This actually was a case where something I learned in school did translate into something practical in my life, which is very, very rare. [Laughs] But it absolutely was a case of obsessive-compulsive behavior. The scratching, the anorexia and bulimia, which are forms of OCD.

Ballet really lends itself to that because there is such a sense of ritual: the wrapping of your shoes every day, the preparing of new shoes for a performance. It’s such a process. It’s almost religious in nature. It’s almost like Jews putting on their [garb] or Catholics with their rosary beads. And then they have this God-like character in their director. It really is a devotional, ritualistic, religious art.

Which you can relate to as an actor, too, because when you do a film, you submit to your director in that way. Your director is your everything, and you devote yourself to them. You want to help create their vision. So all of that … the sort of religious obsession and compulsion would be my professional diagnosis. [Laughs]

Q: I’m sure you are aware of the Oscar buzz your performance is receiving. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, the best thing you can hope for when you make a movie, and you put your soul into it like all of us did, is that people respond to it well. And the fact that audiences have come away moved, excited, entertained and stimulated by this film is extraordinarily flattering. It’s a great, great honor.

View some of Natalie’s greatest scenes from her latest movies below:

Natalie Portman

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