8 Milestones in the Evolution of Natalie Portman

Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

The tables, as they say, have turned. Now it's Portman who finds herself the cradle robber, falling in love with a Jedi Knight five years her junior (in reality, Hayden Christensen is two months older than Portman). Of the three Star Wars prequels, this is probably the worst -- which is saying something -- but, in Portman's case, it did give her the most to do. She basically spends the first film sitting around dressed in strange head ornaments until near the end; in the third, it would appear that her instructions were to "sit around and look pregnant." At least in the second film she gets to see some action from start to finish. Regardless, it's a testament to Portman that she isn't identified by her role in Star Wars, a label which pretty much every other actor (including Harrison Ford) has found hard to avoid. If nothing else, Portman holds the distinction of being nominated twice for Worst Screen Couple with two different actors: Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen.

Garden State (2004)

OK, there are a lot of people that hate Garden State. And, yes, most of the people that do hate Garden State do so for their deep-seated (and sometimes understandable) loathing of Zach Braff. But what Garden State did for Portman was make her such an indie darling, that her roles in the Star Wars prequels (including the yet to be released Revenge of the Sith) became an afterthought. After Star Wars, it was almost a cry of, "Hey, this actress can show emotion! We all forgot!" Also, for better or worse, Portman can be held 100 percent accountable for turning The Shins into a mainstream band, causing all Shins fans at the time to declare them "over."

Closer (2004)

To date -- and we have less than a week to say this -- Closer is Portman's only Oscar nomination. Here, she plays a stripper with a somewhat mysterious past involved in a relationship with an obituaries writer played by Jude Law (since this was 2004, it was safe to assume that the co-star in every film was Jude Law). Due to an aversion to nude scenes at the time, Portman never appears nude in this film, even though she portrays a stripper (some nude scenes were cut, perhaps due to her then work in Star Wars?). An aversion that she no longer has considering less clothed scenes in Black Swan and, more notably, the prequel to The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel Chevalier.

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  • CiscoMan says:

    It is rather amazing how Portman has avoided the stink of the Star Wars prequels, even though she was completely lost in those films.
    Speaking of Star Wars, please devote one of the next in this series to Liam Neeson. I always associated him with Oskar Schindler, but that seems to be the exception to the rule (Darkman, Taken, A-Team, etc.).

  • Sean Penn says:

    "...it was safe to assume that the co-star in every film was Jude Law." I happen to think that Mr Law is one of our finest actors."

  • Scraps says:

    I'm a happily married man, but I get all Dave Letterman when I think about Natalie Portman.

  • Scraps says:

    I watched 'Schindler's List' recently, the first time I had seen it since I saw it in the theater. Still a powerful movie, but way less so knowing Neeson would go on to play Qui Gon Jin, and Feinnes would end up starring along side J-Lo in 'Maid in Manhattan'...

  • Ana says:

    A friend of Natalie said:
    “Ben is a self-promoter who’s loving the spotlight. Her friends are worried she is in over her head.
    I don’t think he ever thought twice about leaving his girlfriend — which isn’t a very good sign of character. He seems like a social climber who was all over Natalie the moment they met.
    They’re calling him the ballet version of K-Fed! Unfortunately, he is the father of her baby, and her pals think she wouldn’t be getting married if she wasn’t pregnant, and that it’s all going too fast.
    They’re nervous that Natalie will wake up one day and wonder what happened.”
    You can’t confront a friend about her relationship. Guess they are gonna have to wait it out!

  • Kristen says:

    Okay, I can't be the only one disturbed by the Léon clip. Right?

  • casting couch says:

    Perhaps because every character in those prequel movies was bland and unmemorable (thanks to the writing), the actors managed to dodge blaster fire.

  • Ben-jammin says:

    How was Attack of the Clones worse than Phantom Menace? I thought it was awesome.

  • Bryan Evans says:

    I really do think that her role in V for Vendetta deserves a spot...

  • Kevin says:

    That's the first time I've heard the uncensored version of her SNL short. Even though you know all the words, hearing them makes it so much better.

  • Mark says:

    It's basically the audio from the Lonely Island track placed over the censored SNL skit.

  • Lesly Suarez says:

    Sorry but this list Suks really bad. V for Vendetta is not even on here!

  • Tiera says:

    What about V for Vendetta? She was pretty incredible in that movie too, there aren't too many women who can pull off a shaved head look.

  • Sarah says:

    Can I add a guilty pleasure which definitely doesn't belong on this list of milestones? Where the Heart Is I hate myself for loving that movie.

  • Xavier says:

    This list may have been improved by the addition of Anywhere But Here, for which Portman was nominated for her first Golden Globe, and especially, V for Vendetta, which is perhaps her most well-known role (at least prior to Black Swan)

  • anon says:

    Wasn't Rosie in Sleepless in Seattle? Lots of people love that movie.