Natalie Portman (born June 9, 1981) is an Israeli-born American actress. With an extensive career in film since her teenage years, she has starred in various blockbusters and independent films, for which she has received multiple accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and two Golden Globe Awards.
Portman began her acting career at age twelve, when she starred as the young protégée of a hitman in the action drama film Léon: The Professional (1994). While in high school, she made her Broadway debut in a 1998 production of The Diary of a Young Girl and gained international recognition for starring as Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). From 1999 to 2003, Portman attended Harvard University for a bachelor's degree in psychology, while continuing to act in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002, 2005) and in The Public Theater's 2001 revival of Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull. In 2004, Portman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won a Golden Globe Award for playing a mysterious stripper in the romantic drama Closer.
Portman's career progressed with her starring roles as Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta (2005), Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), and a troubled ballerina in the psychological horror film Black Swan (2010), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She went on to star in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached (2011) and featured as Jane Foster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films Thor (2011), and Thor: The Dark World (2013), which established her among the world's highest-paid actresses. She has since portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic Jackie (2016), earning her third Academy Award nomination.
Portman's directorial ventures include the short film Eve (2008) and the biographical drama A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015). She is vocal about the politics of America and Israel, and is an advocate for animal rights and environmental causes. She is married to dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, with whom she has two children.
Natalie Herschlag was born on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, to parents of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Her native language is Hebrew. She is the only child of Shelley (née Stevens), an American homemaker who works as Portman's agent, and Avner Hershlag, an Israeli-born gynecologist. Her maternal grandparents were American Jews, whereas her paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants to Israel.
Portman and her family first lived in Washington, D.C., but relocated to Connecticut in 1988 and then moved to Long Island in 1990 where she attended a Jewish elementary school, the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County. She studied ballet and modern dance at the American Theater Dance Workshop, and regularly attended the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. Describing her early life, Portman has 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."
When Portman was ten years old, a Revlon agent spotted her at a pizza restaurant and asked her to become a child model. She turned down the offer but used the opportunity to get an acting agent. She auditioned for the 1992 off-Broadway Ruthless!, a musical about a girl who is prepared to commit murder to get the lead in a school play. Portman and Britney Spears were chosen as the understudies for star Laura Bell Bundy.
Six months after Ruthless! ended, Portman auditioned for and secured a leading role in Luc Besson's action drama Léon: The Professional (1994). To protect her privacy, she adopted her paternal grandmother's maiden name, Portman, as her stage name. She played Mathilda, an orphan child who befriends a middle-aged hitman (played by Jean Reno). Her parents were reluctant to let her do the part due to the explicit sexual and violent nature of the script, but agreed after Besson took out the nudity and killings committed by Portman's character.
After filming The Professional, Portman went back to school. She also enrolled at the Stagedoor Manor performing arts camp, where she played Anne Shirley in a staging of Anne of Green Gables.
In 1996, Portman had brief roles in Woody Allen's musical Everyone Says I Love You and Tim Burton's comic science fiction film Mars Attacks!.
Portman was cast opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996), but she dropped out during rehearsals when studio executives found her too young for the role. She was also offered Adrian Lyne's Lolita, based on the novel of the same name, but she turned down the part due to its excessive sexual content.
Portman instead signed on to star as Anne Frank in a Broadway adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, which was staged at the Music Box Theatre from December 1997 to May 1998. She found a connection with Frank's story, given her own family's history with the Holocaust.
Natalie Portman began filming the part of Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 1997, which marked her first big-budget production. She worked closely with the director George Lucas on her character's accent and mannerisms, and watched the films of Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, and Katharine Hepburn to draw inspiration from their voice and stature.
The first film of the series, Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, when she was in her final year of high school. She did not attend the film's premiere so she could study for her high school final exams. The film earned $924 million worldwide, the second highest-grossing film of all time to that point, and it established Portman as a global star.
Portman graduated from Syosset High School in 1999.
Following production on The Phantom Menace, Portman played the leading role in the coming-of-age film Anywhere but Here (1999) for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination for it.
In 2000 she began attending Harvard University to pursue her bachelor's degree in psychology, where she also studied advanced Hebrew literature, neurobiology, thus significantly reducing her acting roles over the next few years. When asked about balancing her career and education, she said, "I don't care if [college] ruins my career. I'd rather be smart than a movie star."
In the summer of 2001, she returned to Broadway to perform Chekhov's drama The Seagull, which was directed by Mike Nichols and co-starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The following year, she reprised her role of Amidala in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, which she had filmed in Sydney and London during her summer break of 2000. She was excited by the opportunity to play a confident young woman who did not depend on the male lead. Portman graduated from Harvard in 2003 and her sole screen appearance that year was in the brief part of a young mother in the war film Cold Mountain.
Next year she played a mysterious stripper in Closer, a drama directed by Mike Nichols based on the play of the same name, and co-starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Clive Owen. The actress agreed to her first sexually explicit adult role, after turning down such projects in the past, saying that it reflected her own maturity as a person. Closer grossed over $115 million against a $27 million budget, and Portman won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in addition to receiving an Academy Award nomination in the same category.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the final installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, was Portman's first film release of 2005. It earned over $848 million to rank as the second-highest-grossing film of the year.
In late 2006, she starred in Miloš Forman's Goya's Ghosts, about the painter Francisco Goya. Forman cast her in the film after finding a resemblance between her and Goya's portrait The Milkmaid of Bordeaux. She insisted on using a body-double for her nude scenes after discovering on set that she had to perform them when they were not originally in the script.
Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson starred as rival sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn, respectively, in the period film The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). She was excited by the opportunity to work opposite another actress her age, bemoaning that such casting was rare in film. The film had modest box-office earnings.
She served as a jury member of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and also launched her own production company, named handsomecharlie films, after her late dog. Portman's directorial debut, the short film Eve, opened the short-film screenings at the 65th Venice International Film Festival. It is about a young woman who goes to her grandmother's romantic date, and Portman drew inspiration for the older character (played by Lauren Bacall) from her own grandmother.
In 2009, Portman played a ballerina overwhelmed with the prospect of performing Swan Lake in Darren Aronofsky's psychological horror film Black Swan. She was trained by the professional ballerina Mary Helen Bowers, and in preparation, she trained for five to eight hours daily for six months and lost 20 pounds (9 kg). Her performance was acclaimed.
Black Swan emerged as a sleeper hit, grossing over $329 million worldwide against a $13 million budget, and earned Portman several prizes including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
In 2010, Portman signed on with Dior and appeared in several of the company's advertising campaigns. Portman is the face of one of the company's fragrances, Miss Dior, inspired by Catherine Dior. She has starred in campaign videos for the fragrance, and promoted a new version of the fragrance, Rose N'Roses, in 2021.
Portman next served as an executive producer for No Strings Attached (2011), a romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and her as a young couple in a casual sex relationship. She described the experience of making it as a "palate cleanser" from the intensity of her Black Swan job. It received unfavorable reviews but was a commercial success.
In 2012, Natalie Portman topped Forbes' listing of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Forbes featured her in their Celebrity 100 listing of 2014, and estimated her income from the previous year to be $13 million.
Portman portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic Jackie (2016), about Kennedy's life immediately after the 1963 assassination of her husband. She was initially intimidated to take on the part of a well-known public figure, and eventually researched Kennedy extensively by watching videos of her, reading books, and listening to audiotapes of her interviews. She also worked with a dialect coach to adapt Kennedy's unique speaking style.
She won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Natalie Portman met French danseur and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, while working together on the set of Black Swan. The couple began dating in 2009 and wed in a Jewish ceremony held in Big Sur, California on August 4, 2012. They have two children, son Aleph (born 2011) and daughter Amalia (born 2017). The family lived in Paris for a time, after Millepied accepted the position of director of dance with the Paris Opera Ballet, and Portman expressed a desire to become a French citizen. They currently reside in Los Angeles.
In January 2014, her husband Millepied said he was in the process of converting to Judaism.