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Before Natalie Portman became the Black Swan

Last updated on: February 17, 2011 16:00 IST

Before Natalie Portman became the Black Swan

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Every single critic including the bunch here at Rediff seems to be in agreement on Natalie Portman winning the Best Actress award at the Oscars this year.

Nominated for her fearless, freakish performance in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, Portman is being hailed as an actress whose time has come.

Here, then, is a look back at the 29-year-old, and how she made her way to where she is today. Read on.

Image: Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
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Before Natalie Portman became the Black Swan

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Born in Israel on June 9 the same day as the much older actor Johnny Depp, Natalie and her family soon moved to the US, going first to Washington DC and then to New York.

At the age of 11, while she was at a pizza parlour, she was approached and 'discovered' by a talent agent hunting for child models.

Modelling, however, wasn't Natalie's game, the girl even then preferring to try acting instead. She made her debut six months later with Luc Besson's Leon: The Professional. The film was a smash hit, highly acclaimed and a breakthrough debut for Portman, but there was some controversy because of her, at 12, playing what was then called a Lolita-esque character.

Image: Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional
Photographs: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
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Before Natalie Portman became the Black Swan

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Major filmmakers were quick to notice Portman, however, and the next couple of years led to her getting supporting roles with directors like Woody Allen (Everyone Says I Love You), Tim Burton (Mars Attacks) and Michael Mann (Heat).

Her first leading role came in 1999, when George Lucas cast her as Queen Amidala in the blockbuster prequel Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace. Portman was instantly recognised as a major star.


Image: Natalie Portman in Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace
Photographs: Adrien Veczan/Reuters
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Before Natalie Portman became the Black Swan

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Between the Star Wars movies that cemented her global visibility, Natalie continued to do critically acclaimed work like in Zach Braff's Garden State and Mike Nichols' Closer.

Closer, where she played a stripper, also showed that Portman was more than a fresh faced youngster. She held her own with A-list talent like Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Jude Law, and her work in the film won her an Oscar nomination in 2005.

Image: Natalie Portman in Closer
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters
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Before Natalie Portman became the Black Swan

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Since then, with the exception of comic book adaptation V For Vendetta (for which she shaved her head), Portman has mostly looked at indie fare. Her highlights include Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights, Justin Chadwick's The Other Boleyn Girl and prominent parts in portmanteau films Paris, Je T'Aime and New York, I Love You.

After the gruelling work that went into creating her character Nina in Black Swan, Portman now seems in more relaxed mode. She made a widely panned romantic comedy called No Strings Attached with Ashton Kutcher, and her next release is stoner comedy Your Highness, with James Franco.

But that only seems fair, really. Just how serious can you expect a 29-year-old to be?

Do you think Natalie Portman will win the Oscar for Best Actress this year? Write in!


Image: Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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