Natalie Portman Biography
Natalie Hershlag born June 9, 1981, better known by her stage name Natalie Portman, is an Israeli-American actress. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 French action film Leon. During the 1990s, Portman had major roles in films like Beautiful Girls and Anywhere but Here, before being cast for the role as Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while she was working on the Star Wars films. 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, alongside Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. 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 shaved her head and learned to speak with a British accent for her starring role in V for Vendetta (2006), for which she won a Constellation Award for Best Female Performance, and a Saturn Award for Best Actress. 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.
In 2011, Portman won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her performance in Black Swan. She is engaged to ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied.
Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her father, Avner Hershlag, is a fertility specialist. Her mother, Shelley Hershlag, is an American homemaker who works as her agent. Portman's maternal ancestors were Jewish immigrants from Austria and Russia, and 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. The family first lived in Washington, D.C., where Portman attended Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, but relocated to Connecticut in 1988, and then settled on Long Island, New York, in 1990. She attended Syosset High School in Syosset, Long Island. Portman has said that although she "really love[s] the States... my heart's in Jerusalem. That's where I feel at home." Portman is a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is an only child and very close to her parents, who are often seen with her at her film premieres.
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 the public Syosset High School in 1999. Portman skipped the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I so she could study for her high school final exams.
On June 5, 2003, Portman graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in psychology. "I don't care if [college] ruins my career," she told the New York Post, according to a Fox News article. "I'd rather be smart than a movie star." At Harvard, Portman was Alan Dershowitz's research assistant in a psychology lab. While attending Harvard, she was a resident of Lowell House and wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson in response to an anti-Israeli essay.
Portman took graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the spring of 2004. In March 2006, she appeared as a guest lecturer at a Columbia University course in terrorism and counterterrorism, where she spoke about her film V for Vendetta.
Portman has professed an interest in foreign languages since childhood and has studied French, Japanese, German, and Arabic.
As a student, Portman co-authored two research papers that were published in professional scientific journals. Her 1998 high school paper, "A Simple Method To Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar," was entered in the Intel Science Talent Search, in which she was named a semifinalist. In 2002, she contributed to a study on memory called "Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence" during her psychology studies at Harvard.
Due to her scientific publications, Portman is among a very small number of professional actors with a finite Erdős–Bacon number, a concept that reflects the "small world phenomenon" in academia and entertainment by measuring the "collaborative distance" between that person and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős—and the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from American actor Kevin Bacon.
Portman started dancing lessons at age four and performed in local troupes. At the age of 10, 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."
Portman spent her school holidays attending theater camps. When she was 10, she 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, Leon (aka 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. Leon opened on November 18, 1994, marking her feature film debut at age 13. That same year she appeared in the short film Developing, which aired on television.
Social and political causes
Portman, who is an advocate for animal rights, has been a vegetarian since childhood. She became a vegan in 2009 after reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. She does not eat animal products or wear fur, feathers, or leather. "All of my shoes are from Target and Stella McCartney," she has said. In 2007, she launched her own brand of vegan footwear.
In 2007, Portman traveled to Rwanda with Jack Hanna, to film the documentary Gorillas on the Brink. Later, at a naming ceremony, Portman christened a baby gorilla Gukina, which means "to play." Portman has been an advocate of environmental causes since childhood, when she joined an environmental song and dance troupe known as World Patrol Kids. She is also a member of the One Voice movement.
Portman has also supported antipoverty activities. In 2004 and 2005, she traveled 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 developing countries.In an interview conducted backstage at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia and appearing on the PBS program Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, she discussed microfinance. Host Fareed Zakaria said that he was "generally wary of celebrities with fashionable causes," but included the segment with Portman because "she really knew her stuff."
In the "Voices" segment of the April 29, 2007, episode of the ABC Sunday morning program This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Portman discussed her work with FINCA and how it can benefit women and children in Third World countries. In fall 2007, she visited several university campuses, including Harvard, USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, New York University, and Columbia, to inspire students with the power of microfinance and to encourage them to join the Village Banking Campaign to help families and communities lift themselves out of poverty.
In 2010, Portman's activist work and popularity with young people earned her a nomination for VH1's Do Something Awards, which is dedicated to honoring individuals who do good.
Portman is a supporter of the Democratic Party, and in the 2004 presidential race she campaigned for the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry. In the 2008 presidential election, Portman supported Senator Hillary Clinton of New York in the Democratic primaries. She later campaigned for the eventual Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, during the general election. However, in a 2008 interview, she also said: "I even like John McCain. I disagree with his war stance — which is a really big deal — but I think he's a very moral person."
In the May 2002 issue of Vogue, Portman called actor/musician Lukas Haas and musician Moby her close friends. After starring in the video for his song "Carmensita", she began a relationship with American folk singer Devendra Banhart, which ended in September 2008. She met ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied in late 2009, on the set of her film Black Swan, for which Millepied acted as choreographer. By at least New Year's Eve 2009, the two had begun dating. On December 27, 2010, a Portman representative told the press that Portman and Millepied are engaged and expecting a child, due in the summer of 2011.
On the concept of the afterlife, Portman has said, "I don't believe in that. I believe this is it, and I believe it's the best way to live." She has said that she feels more Jewish in Israel and that she would like to raise her children in the Jewish religion: "A priority for me is definitely that I'd like to raise my kids Jewish, but the ultimate thing is to have someone who is a good person and who is a partner."