Natalie Portman - biography
Natalie Hershlag (Hebrew: נטלי הרשלג; born June 9, 1981), better known by her stage name Natalie Portman, is an actress with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 action film Léon: The Professional, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005). In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while still working as an actress. She completed her bachelor's degree in 2003.
In 2001, Portman opened in New York City's Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. In 2005, 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 the drama Closer. 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). She played leading roles in the historical dramas Goya's Ghosts (2006) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). In May 2008, she served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury. Portman's directorial debut, Eve, opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival's shorts competition in 2008. Portman directed a segment of the collective film New York, I Love You.
Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. She is the only child of Shelley (née Stevens), an American homemaker who works as Portman's agent, and Avner Hershlag, an Israeli citizen who is a fertility specialist and gynecologist. Portman's maternal ancestors were Jewish immigrants to the United States, from Austria and Russia (her mother's family had changed their surname from "Edelstein" to "Stevens"). Her paternal ancestors were Jews who moved to Israel from Poland and Romania. Her paternal grandfather, whose parents died at Auschwitz, was an economics professor in Israel, and her Romanian-born great-grandmother was a spy for British Intelligence during World War II.
Portman's parents met at a Jewish student center at Ohio State University, where her mother was selling tickets. They corresponded after her father returned to Israel, and were married when her mother visited a few years later. In 1984, when Portman was three years old, the family moved to the United States, where her father received his medical training. Portman, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, has said that although she "really love[s] the States... my heart's in Jerusalem. That's where I feel at home."
In Washington, D.C., Portman attended Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Portman learned to speak Hebrew in addition to English, and attended a Jewish elementary school, the Solomon Schechter Day School of Glen Cove, New York. She graduated from Syosset High School in Syosset, Long Island, in 1999. Portman skipped the premiere of her film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace so she could study for her high school final exams.
In 2003, Portman graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. degree in psychology. "I don't care if [college] ruins my career," she told the New York Post. "I'd rather be smart than a movie star." At Harvard, Portman was Alan Dershowitz's research assistant. While attending Harvard, she was a resident of Lowell House and wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson in response to an essay critical of Israeli actions toward Palestinians.
Portman took graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the spring of 2004. In March 2006, she was a guest lecturer at a Columbia University course in terrorism and counterterrorism, where she spoke about her film V for Vendetta.
As a student, Portman co-authored two research papers that were published in scientific journals. Her 1998 high school paper, "A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar", co-authored with scientists Ian Hurley and Jonathan Woodward, was entered in the Intel Science Talent Search. In 2002, she contributed to a study on memory called "Frontal Lobe Activation during Object Permanence: Data from Near-Infrared Spectroscopy" during her psychology studies at Harvard. This publication placed Portman among a very small number of professional actors with a defined Erdős–Bacon number.
Career Early work
Portman started dancing lessons at age four and performed in local troupes. At the age of ten, 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 ten, Portman auditioned for the 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 1994, she auditioned for the role of a child who befriends a middle-aged hitman in Luc Besson's film, Léon: The Professional. Soon after getting the part, she took her 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 on November 18, 1994, marking her feature film debut. That same year she appeared in the short film Developing, which aired on television.
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 Beautiful Girls. 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 teenaged mother in Where the Heart Is, which opened in April 2000.
After filming Where the Heart Is, Portman moved into the dorms of Harvard University to pursue her bachelor's degree in psychology. She said in a 1999 interview that, with the exception of the Star Wars prequels, she would not act for the next four years in order to concentrate on studying. During the summer break from June to September 2000, Portman filmed Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in Sydney, along with additional production in London.
In July 2001, Portman opened in New York City's Public Theater production of 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. That same year, she was one of many celebrities who made cameo appearances in the 2001 comedy