The actress talks about her role in the upcoming controversial film
Natalie Portman, a bundle of cuteness with her spiky blond hair, was very forthcoming and lucid during the interviews for V For Vendetta. The film tackles some tough issues and is sure to arouse controversy with its terrorism theme. V For Vendetta marks the first time Natalie will carry a big-budget film as the lead. She skillfully deflected the question by drumming up the popularity of the graphic novel and involvement of the Wachowski brothers. Her post-Star Wars choices continue to be interesting with the Milos Forman film, Goya's Ghosts, coming up in the fall and the children's film, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, next year.
Was it traumatic shaving your hair?
Natalie Portman: I was so trying to focus, be in character; because we had one shot to do it. I don't really have any personal memories of the experience.
Do you like having short hair now?
Natalie Portman: I started letting it grow back, but it takes a really long time.
Did you not get recognized with the shaved head?
Natalie Portman: No, it actually made me more recognizable. With hair I can camouflage with people, as a female with a shaved head, people tend to stare just naturally. But the only place I'm recognized every day is Los Angeles. Otherwise it's like once a day. I feel pretty anonymous.
This is your first solo starring vehicle in your thirteen year career. Do feel nervous having to carry a film?
Natalie Portman: I don't think of it as a solo thing at all. It has a graphic novel that has an amazing following. "V" is obviously the center, so that's the star and title character, who's played by an incredible actor [Hugo Weaving]. James [McTeague, the director] and the Wachowski's [producers] have an incredible following from The Matrix. I definitely don't feel like I'm carrying this alone. I'm part of an amazing team. I wanted to make this movie for the material, to be a part of this big entertainment movie. It actually has some ideas. I was thrilled by that prospect.
What grabbed you about the character?
Natalie Portman: It's complicated, because you can easily make a big Hollywood action movie with a hero that the audience falls in love with. This movie has a hero who is often bad and does things that you don't like. The character goes on a journey that could have been a simple thing for her. The process by which she changes is so complicated. There's this level of her finding her faith, maybe she's being manipulated. There are levels of complications. Just because people are oppressed doesn't mean they're justified in they're means. It leaves it open to discussion, I think.
As an Israeli, how did you feel playing a terrorist?
Natalie Portman: Being from Israel was a reason I wanted to do this because terrorism and violence are such a daily part of my conversations since I was little. It's not a new thing. It's been part of my thought process for a long time. One of the books I read to help me for this role was Menachem Began's book about his experience in a Siberian prison. And then eventually he came to lead a cell against the British occupation of Palestine. He was called a terrorist by many people. It's not a particularly anti-Israel thing. Israelis have been called terrorists too. It's important for us to question when, if ever, violence is justified. What are our thresholds for how a situation gets before we say enough and revolt? One of the great things about this movie is that it leaves it open for discussion. It doesn't make clear good or bad statements. It respects the audience enough to take away their own opinion.
You were filming when the London tube stations were bombed. Were you concerned about how the film would be interpreted after that?
Natalie Portman: Any act of violence, anywhere, with human casualties is horrifying. These daily occurrences that we now see on television. I'm optimistic enough to hope this isn't the future, but obviously there are many elements in the film that resonate with historical and current events.
Is this film anti-Bush? Or anti-Christian fundamentalism?
Natalie Portman: It happens in an imaginary future, so it allows for many layers of interpretation. There are certainly people who will take it that way. There are people I know who have seen it and take it as an anti-fascism movie. That's one of the beautiful things about it. One of my favorite scenes in the film is Gordon's television show. It shows how incredible that simple for simplification and propagandizing that goes on with extremists, leaders or terrorist freedom fighters, is.
What's next after this?
Natalie Portman: I'm taking a break. I finished "Goya's Ghost", the Milos Forman movie that's coming out in the fall of this year. I'm about to start a kid's film called "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium".
With Dustin Hoffman?
Natalie Portman: Exactly.
How do you choose your roles? There's certainly a lot of variety.
Natalie Portman: I'm just trying to do different things. If I can keep myself interested, then hopefully the audience will be interested too.
Natalie Portman: It's hard to put a genre label on V for Vendetta. It probably fits in with the large action genre, but it's more provocative. I will leave it open to the people who write essays about this stuff and will make The Matrix, V, Star Wars connections.
What's it feel like to be done with Star Wars?
Natalie Portman: I mainly did Star Wars while I was in school. I was in school during the year, and over summer break I'd do Star Wars. Now I'm done with school, done with Star Wars, I'm graduated!
V For Vendetta is in theaters Friday, March 17th.
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