8 Milestones in the Evolution of Natalie Portman
In this weekend's surprisingly not-near-as-bad-as-it-could-have-been release, No Strings Attached, Natalie Portman plays a doctor who's too busy for a proper relationship, and instead creates a pact with Ashton Kutcher that develops into a "sex-only" one. How did Portman transform herself from child star to the odds-on favorite to take home Oscar gold (note: not for No Strings Attached) next month? You can always trace a direct line through a handful of important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success, and with Portman, that line has been on a steady uphill climb sine her debut in Léon. So let's look at eight performances -- including something called "World Patrol Kids" -- that trace the evolution of one Natalie Hershlag.
World Patrol Kids (1992)
Yes, in one of her first filmed performances, Portman dances around as a member of the World Patrol Kids who -- for better or worse -- try to educate the masses on the benefits of recycling. She's doesn't quite have down the dancing skills that she displayed in Black Swan, but could totally have been an extra in the video for Debbie Gibson's "Electric Youth."
Léon (The Professional) (1994)
Portman, in her first film role, plays a young girl who comes home to discover that a corrupt DEA agent has murdered her entire family. Seeking solace at a neighbor's apartment (who also happens to be a hitman), Portman learns how to exact revenge and, in the process, falls in love with the hitman. It should be noted that Portman was 12 when she filmed this role and the hitman, Jean Reno, was 45. From an early age, Portman was never one to avoid controversial roles. Speaking of...
Beautiful Girls (1996)
In Ted Demme's high school reunion dramedy, Willie (Timothy Hutton) -- who is having a hard time figuring out what his relationship means -- finds solace in the company of Portman's character, Marty, who is 13. When filming, Hutton was only 35 -- so not near as creepy of a relationship that we saw in Léon? No, still very creepy. This also marks the last time Rosie O'Donnell appeared in a film that could be considered watchable (for those who will say "It's her only watchable film," allow me to remind you of A League of Their Own, which I'll defend until the day that I die.)