Natalie Portman (born June 9, 1981) is an actress. Her first role was in the 1994 action thriller Léon: The Professional, opposite Jean Reno. She was later cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005).
Born in Jerusalem with dual American and Israeli citizenship to an Israeli father and American mother, Portman grew up in the eastern United States from the age of three. She studied dancing and acting in New York, and starred in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace while still at high school on Long Island. In 1999, Portman enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology, alongside her work as an actress; she completed a bachelor’s degree in 2003. During her studies she starred in a second Star Wars film and opened in New York City’s The Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull in 2001.
Portman won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for starring in the 2004 drama Closer, appeared in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith the following year, and won a Constellation Award for Best Female Performance and the Saturn Award for Best Actress for her starring role in the political thriller V for Vendetta (2006). She played leading roles in the historical dramas Goya’s Ghosts (2006) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), and also appeared in Thor (2011) and its 2013 sequel. In 2010, Portman starred in the psychological thriller film Black Swan. Her performance received widespread critical acclaim and she earned her first Academy Award for Best Actress, her second Golden Globe Award, the SAG Award, the BAFTA Award and the BFCA Award in 2011. In 2016, she portrayed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the biographical drama Jackie. She was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and won the BFCA for Best Actress.
In May 2008, Portman served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury. The same year she directed a segment of the collective film New York, I Love You. Her first feature film as a director, A Tale of Love and Darkness, was released in 2015.
In 2003, Portman graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in psychology. “I don’t care if [college] ruins my career,” she told the New York Post. “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” At Harvard, Portman was Alan Dershowitz’s research assistant. While attending Harvard, she was a resident of Lowell House and wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson in response to an essay critical of Israeli actions toward Palestinians.
Portman returned to Israel and took graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the spring of 2004. In March 2006, she was 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 scientific journals. Her 1998 high school paper, “A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar,” co-authored with scientists Ian Hurley and Jonathan Woodward, was entered in the Intel Science Talent Search. In 2002, she contributed to a study on memory called “Frontal lobe activation during object permanence: data from near-infrared spectroscopy” during her psychology studies at Harvard.
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.”
On school holidays, Portman attended theater camps. When she was 10, Portman auditioned for the 1992 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 1993, she auditioned for the role of an orphan child who befriends a middle-aged hitman (played by Jean Reno) in Luc Besson’s film, Léon: The Professional. Soon after getting the part, she took her paternal grandmother’s maiden name, “Portman”, as her stage name in the interest of privacy and to protect her family’s identity. Léon: The Professional opened in 1994, marking her feature film debut.
In 2006, she commented that she felt more Jewish in Israel and that she would like to raise her children Jewish: “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.”
After Portman starred in the video for folk singer Devendra Banhart’s song “Carmensita”, the two began a relationship, which ended in September 2008.
Portman began dating French ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied in 2009. The couple met while she was filming Black Swan, for which he was the choreographer. In December 2010, Portman announced their engagement and confirmed her pregnancy. Portman and Millepied married in a Jewish ceremony in Big Sur, California on August 4, 2012. The couple has two children: son Aleph (born June 2011) and daughter Amalia (born February 2017).
In January 2013, the Paris Opera Ballet announced that Millepied had accepted the position of director of dance, beginning September 2014. The couple subsequently announced plans to relocate to Paris with Portman stating that she would like to become a French citizen. In 2016, the family returned to Los Angeles from Paris.