Early life background
While many actors take on stage names, Natalie's professional last name of "Portman" is in fact her maternal grandmother's maiden name. It is rumored that she first adopted it in case her performance in Léon might discredit her family.
Portman is a descendent of Holocaust survivors, though many in her father's family perished. Natalie's paternal family are Israeli descendants of Jewish immigrants from Poland, while her American mother's family is descended from Jewish refugees from Austria and Russia. . When Natalie was three years old her family moved from Israel to the United States for her father to pursue his medical training. They first went to Washington, D.C. in 1984 and then Connecticut in 1988, before finally settling down in Syosset, New York in 1990.
Natalie is an only child and very close to her parents, who are often seen with her at movie premieres. Her father, Dr. Avner Hershlag, M.D., is a medical doctor specializing in the research and treatment of human fertility and reproduction (reproductive endocrinology). Her mother, Shelley, studied art in college and always accompanied pre-adult Natalie to movie shoot locations.
Portman is reportedly between 5'1" and 5'3" tall (approx. 155–160 cm), a size which she often credits with helping her blend into the crowd.
Natalie was a child actor who performed in local troupes and dreamed of dancing on Broadway. One day after dance class at age eleven, Natalie was discovered in a pizza parlor by an agent for Revlon, who offered her an opportunity to model. She asked to be introduced to acting talent scouts and quickly got an audition for Luc Besson's 1994 film Léon (aka The Professional). She soon made her movie début at the age of twelve playing an orphaned girl who befriends a much older assassin in the intense R rated film.
During her teen years Portman played a significant and memorable role in the ensemble cast of Beautiful Girls, and had minor roles in Heat, Everyone Says I Love You and Mars Attacks!. During her junior year in high school, Portman starred in the Broadway revival of The Diary of Anne Frank, performing eight shows a week while attending classes fulltime. In 1999, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ann August in Anywhere But Here. Portman went on to play a persevering teenaged mother in Where the Heart Is. Later she was one of many celebrities who played themselves in the cameo comedy Zoolander.
While pursuing her bachelor's degree in psychology at Harvard she appeared in the Star Wars prequel trilogy of movies, which were filmed during her summer break from university. Among Star Wars fans she is known for playing the role of Padmé Amidala in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
After graduating from Harvard in 2003 Natalie had a small but pivotal role as a young war widow in the Oscar-winning movie Cold Mountain. That was followed in 2004 by starring roles in the successful independent movies Garden State and Closer, winning a Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her role as Alice in Closer. She was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the same role.
Portman had her head shaved on film for the screen adaption of Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta, set for release in March 2006. In it she plays Evey Hammond, the young woman who is saved from the secret police by the main character, V. She first showed off her new look at the premieres of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith at the Cannes Film Festival, American premiere, and Berlin premiere. She enjoyed having a shaved head, especially after all the hairstyles she had for the Star Wars prequels.
- See discussion page for further sources and discussion.
Natalie Hershlag graduated Syosset High School in Syosset, New York; June of 1999 after being a straight-A honors student with many academic achievements. After high school she continued to maintain straight-A's through her time at Harvard University where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology June 5 2003.
As student Natalie Hershlag, Portman co-authored two research papers which were published in professional scientific journals:
- Her 1998 high school paper on the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen earned her a semi-finalist placement in the Intel Science Talent Search.
- In 2002, she contributed to a study on memory called Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence (PDF) during her psychology studies at Harvard.
- See discussion page for further sources and discussion.
Portman is notorious for keeping her personal life as far away from the media spotlight as possible. She has always had many close male friends and rumoured suitors who are frequently named as her boyfriends; the unverified gossip is often repeated as fact in tabloids and biographies. In reality, Portman has dated a couple of her college classmates, and there is reasonable evidence for romantic links with actors including Gael Garcia Bernal, Liron Levo, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Hayden Christensen. In Vogue 2002 (May), reprinted at natalieportman.com, Natalie called actor/musician Lukas Haas and musician Moby her close friends. She was linked to Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, but he claims they are friends.
- A wealth of information is libraried on Natalie Portman fansites in the sections on interviews and articles, and image galleries.
Natalie has been a vegetarian and "animal lover" since she was eight years old. She also loves to read and is never caught without a book.
Natalie spends some of her free time involved in causes such as the Democrats' 2004 U.S. presidential campaign and ending poverty. In 2004 and 2005 she travelled to Uganda, Guatemala, and Ecuador as the Ambassador of Hope for FINCA international, an organization that promotes micro-lending to help finance women-owned businesses in poor countries.
In an interview for the Ecuadorian magazine Cosas in August 2005, she talked about her work with FINCA. She also confirmed that her religion was Judaism, although she was non-practising. Spanish article available for subscribers, rough English translation.
- I've never dated a woman or anything like that, But, I mean, I think it's much more the person that you fall in love with — and why would you close yourself off to fifty percent of the people?
Portman, who had recently read some of the works by W.E.B. DuBois, was interviewed for the August 2004 issue of Allure magazine where she was quoted as saying, "Oh my God! I'm not black, but I know what it feels like!" This prompted her to follow up with a apology letter to their editor, reprinted here.
- The “it” I was referring to when I said, “I know what it feels like,” was not intended to signify that I know “how black people feel,” but rather that I know what DuBois’s concept of double-consciousness feels like, in variation. Had my quote included what I actually said preceding that statement, perhaps my meaning would have been clearer. -Natalie Portman
Wailing Wall kissing
On February 23, 2005, Israeli police moved Portman away from Jerusalem's Western Wall after protests by religious Jews who were praying at the holy site. She and Israeli actor Aki Avni were filming a kissing scene near the Wailing Wall for the movie Free Zone. This was deemed to be immodest and men who were praying heckled the couple until police stepped in and suggested they return later. The site is under the authority of Orthodox Judaism, and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is responsible for the site, said the actors' behaviour violated the code of conduct. 
Pulled over by the NYPD
It was reported that on July 8, 2005, Portman was pulled over by the NYPD while driving in a transit tunnel underneath New York City for looking unusual and having an expired registration. She had a shaven head from playing a suspected terrorist in V for Vendetta, and had just arrived back in the United States. The policeman told her not to drive in the tunnel, but to take the bridge instead. see account from Newsweek interview
|1994||Léon (aka The Professional)||Mathilda|
|1996||Everyone Says I Love You||Laura Dandridge|
|1996||Mars Attacks!||Taffy Dale|
|1999||Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace||Padmé Amidala|
|1999||Anywhere But Here||Ann August|
|2000||Where the Heart Is||Novalee Nation|
|2002||Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones||Padmé Amidala|
|2005||Domino One||Dominique Bellamy|
|2005||Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith||Padmé Amidala|
|2006||V for Vendetta||Evey Hammond||Scheduled to be released theatrically in March 2006|
|2006||Goya's Ghosts||Ines, Alice||In post-production as of December 2005|
|2006||Paris, je t'aime||Francine||In post-production as of November 2005|
|2006||Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium||Shooting is set to begin in March 2006|
Portman has appeared on Sesame Street twice, once along with Elmo as a singing and dancing elephant, and then serenading Big Bird as Alan's substitute.
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