Chances are, you’ve heard of Natalie Portman’s illustrious career.
The Oscar-winning actress has been in the spotlight since she was a child, starring in films such as Leon: The Professional and Star Wars: Episode I-III. She’s gone on to star in some of the most critically acclaimed films and television shows, including Black Swan and her Emmy-winning turn as Jackie Kennedy in the miniseries The Kennedys.
But while Natalie Portman is an undeniable star, she also has a reputation for being fiercely dedicated to her craft. She puts a lot of time into researching her roles, studying her scripts closely and preparing extensively for each project. And when she takes on a role, she brings her years of experience and expertise to the table.
In this article, we’ll explore the remarkable story of Natalie Portman’s career – from her early years to her recent blockbuster hits – so that you can get an up close look at one of Hollywood’s most formidable talents.
Natalie Portman’s Early Life and Education
Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel in 1981. Straddling two worlds, she speaks four languages—English, Hebrew, French and German—and earned dual citizenship in Israel and the U.S. She moved to the States at age three and grew up outside of Washington D.C., attending high school in Long Island, N.Y.
Portman graduated from Harvard University in 2003 with a degree in psychology; even while filming 2002’s Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones she dedicated two hours a day to her studies. By appearing in her first professional role at the tender age of 11 (The Professional), Portman had already proven she was a dedicated actress by the time she entered college; yet it wasn’t until 1994’s Leon: The Professional that Portman became an overnight sensation. This cult classic set Natalie on a course for stardom—one that hasn’t slowed down since then.
Early Film Roles in Leon: The Professional and Heat
Natalie Portman’s feature film career kicked off in 1994 with her impressive debut turn in Luc Besson’s stylized crime drama, Leon: The Professional. Portman played Mathilda, a young girl whose family is slaughtered by a corrupt DEA agent. In response, she makes a deal with the professional hitman who lives next door — and so the two form an unlikely partnership that would shape Portman’s on-screen persona to this day.
In 1995, she received equal attention for her turn as the daughter of Robert De Niro and Valeria Golina in Michael Mann’s scorching Heat. But it was her performance in Leon that lingered in critics’ minds — and helped earn her roles in films like Beautiful Girls (1996) and Anywhere But Here (1999). Through these films, Portman had established herself as an up-and-coming starlet who could take on both comedic and dramatic roles.
Blockbuster Success in Star Wars and Other Projects
Natalie Portman has achieved monumental success in her career and become a Hollywood star. She is best known as Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but has a lengthy list of accolades outside of this beloved saga.
In Star Wars, Natalie played Padme Amidala, Queen of Naboo and later Senator of the Galactic Republic. This role brought her to international fame, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The Star Wars prequels demonstrate Natalie’s range as an actor— from her portrayal of a young Queen to her complicated turn as a mother facing tragedy— and earned her respect from both fans and critics alike.
Natalie has secured leading roles in many blockbuster films since appearing in the Star Wars prequels. She starred opposite Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached (2011), was featured prominently in Thor (2011) and made appearances in Black Swan (2010), V for Vendetta (2005), Closer (2004), Garden State (2004), and many more. Each project showcased Natalie’s commitment to her craft and allowed her to leave an indelible mark on the world of film.
Winning an Oscar for Black Swan
Natalie Portman achieved one of the greatest honors an actor can receive: an Oscar. That landmark was achieved in 2011, with her work on the psychological thriller Black Swan.
Portman portrayed Nina Sayers, a ballerina in the competitive world of New York City ballet. Her dedication to the role was evident in both her performance and physical transformation; before filming began, she underwent rigorous training to become a legitimate ballerina. In addition to her physical preparation, Portman also worked with noted psychologists in order to give her portrayal a realistic layer of depth and nuance.
The results were clear: Portman won both an Award for Best Actress and an Oscar for Best Actress for her work on Black Swan that same year, becoming just the sixth actress in history to win both awards for a single role.
Her performance earned critical acclaim from all corners, with many critics praising her “career-best” performances and powerful characterization of Nina Sayers. To this day, a single viewing of Black Swan remains one of the best ways to appreciate Natalie Portman’s artistry as an actor.
Activism and Other Ventures
Natalie Portman is much more than a brilliant actor. She has used her platform to take on some of the world’s most pressing issues, and to advocate for causes like animal rights and environmentalism.
Animals Rights Activism
Portman teams up with organizations including PETA, advocating for ethical treatment of animals and encouraging people to pursue a vegan lifestyle. Through her work with PETA, she has produced many awareness-raising campaigns and videos, such as one denouncing the sale of fur coats.
The actress has been a vocal supporter of green initiatives, including working with Greenpeace to spread the importance of marine protected areas and advocating for more sustainable solutions in all parts of life. Her other projects in this realm include partnering with EcoWatch on a project tackling oceanic plastic pollution, and collaborating with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an organization dedicated to creating solutions that protect our environment.
In addition to acting and activism, Portman has become involved in various entrepreneurial ventures over the past few years. From designing vegan shoes for Te Casan to writing her own children’s book – ‘Natalie’s Trees’; Portman continues to prove that she’s an inspirational individual who’s determined to make a difference in any way she can.
Natalie Portman has solidified her place in the pantheon of Hollywood stars with her diverse and impressive body of work, from serious roles in critically-acclaimed films to fashion campaigns, to producing and charity work. She is a true triple-threat who, for over twenty years, has been captivating audiences around the world with her performances. While she’s still relatively early in her career, she’s already made a lasting impact that will be remembered for generations. Whether she moves on to other projects or stays in the world of film, one thing is certain: Natalie Portman will continue to be an inspiration and idol for many.
Natalie Portman Quotes
I’d rather be smart than a movie star.
Cute is when a person’s personality shines through their looks. Like in the way they walk, every time you see them you just want to run up and hug them.
When I was in nursery school, the teachers asked me, y’know, ‘What does your dad do for a living?’ So I said ‘He helps women get pregnant!’ They called my mom and they were like, ‘What exactly does your husband do?’