Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman

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Birth Name: Natalie Hershlag

Date of Birth: June 9, 1981

Place of Birth: Jerusalem, Israel

Occupation: Actress

Height: 5' 3"

Best Known For: The Professional, Star Wars prequel trilogy, Garden State

Natalie Portman Biography

Natalie Portman was born on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, Israel. Her father, Avner Hershlag, is an Israeli medical doctor specializing in the research and treatment of human fertility and reproduction (reproductive endocrinology). Her mother, Shelley Stevens, is a Jewish American housewife who now works as Portman's agent. Portman's father's family are descendants of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania, while her mother's family were Jewish immigrants from Austria and Russia; her paternal grandfather's parents died in Auschwitz and her Romanian-born great-grandmother was a spy for the British during World War II.

When Portman was three years old, her family moved from Israel to her mother's native United States, where her father pursued his medical training. The family lived in Washington, D.C. in 1984 and then Connecticut in 1988, before finally settling down in Syosset, New York in 1990. Portman has said that although she "really love[s] the States," her "heart's in Jerusalem. That's where I feel at home."

Discovered by a modeling scout at a New York pizza parlor at the age of 11, Natalie was not motivated by modeling and wanted to find a more fulfilling job. Although she had no initial desire to become an actress, Natalie developed an interest in performing after attending the Stagedoor Manor Performing Camp for three summers.

Her first acting experiences came from her summers at Stagedoor Manor, where she was cast in theater performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cabaret, Anne of Green Gables (in the title role), and Tapestry.

Natalie's film career started with her role in the 1994 film, The Professional (a.k.a. Leon), as a hit-man's protégé. The following year, she appeared in the crime-drama Heat, alongside heavy hitters Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and was noticed in the 1996 film, Beautiful Girls, lighting up the screen with another beautiful actress, Uma Thurman. Her role in Beautiful Girls garnered rave reviews for Natalie, and that same year she could be seen in the Woody Allen star-studded musical, Everyone Says I Love You, as well as Mars Attacks!

After having turned down roles in movies like Lolita (due to her feeling that young actors should not be exposed to sex at such a young age) and the role of Juliet in William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (because of the age difference between Portman and Leonardo DiCaprio), Natalie refused the supporting role in The Horse Whisperer, opting instead to star as Anne Frank in the Broadway production of The Diary of Anne Frank. She was nominated for a Tony award for her performance.

But the role that turned Natalie into more than a Broadway/film actress is that of Queen Padm Amidala, in the first Star Wars prequel. Her three-film contract, which started with 1999's Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, has transformed her into a historic film character. Natalie had never even seen the original three Star Wars movies before being cast by George Lucas.

Natalie's graduation from Syosset High School took place the same summer that the much-hyped prequel was released.

After her role in Phantom Menace, Natalie co-starred with Susan Sarandon in Anywhere But Here (1999), and starred in the lead role alongside Ashley Judd in the film adaptation of Where the Heart Is (2000).

Her next projects were Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), Cold Mountain (2003), Garden State (2004), and True (2004). In 2004, she wowed audiences in Closer, co-starring Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. She took home a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category for this role.

Trilingual (Natalie speaks Hebrew, English and Japanese) and having aspirations of becoming a doctor, Natalie studied psychology at Harvard University and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem while filming Free Zone.

In 2005, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, with Revenge of the Sith released worldwide on May 19. The film was the highest grossing film of the year and was voted Favorite Motion Picture at the People's Choice Awards. Shortly before the film's opening, Portman shaved her head for her role in the film adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel, V for Vendetta, released in March 2006. Her shaved head was first seen publicly at the Revenge of the Sith premieres. She kept her hair short for most of 2005, had a fauxhawk mohawk, and briefly sported a full mohawk in late August, saying that it was "kind of wonderful to throw vanity away for a bit." During the latter part of 2005, Portman filmed Goya's Ghosts.

V for Vendetta opened in early 2006. Portman portrayed Evey Hammond, a young woman who is saved from the secret police by the main character, V. Portman worked with a voice coach for the role, learning to speak in an English accent. Maxim magazine named Portman #33 on its annual Hot 100 list, citing her V for Vendetta bald head as a huge accomplishment proving "you don't need hair to be hot."

Portman has commented on V for Vendetta's political relevance, and mentioned that her character, who joins an underground anti-government group, is "often bad and does things that you don't like" and that "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." Although the film "doesn't make clear good or bad statements. It respects the audience enough to take away their own opinion." Portman's upcoming films include Goya's Ghosts and Free Zone (an Israeli film which received a limited U.S. theatrical release in April 2006). She is set to appear in the children's film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, which began filming in April 2006; Portman has said that she was "excited to do a kids movie."

Portman had a small role in the 18th season of The Simpsons as the voice of Bart Simpson's love interest, Darcy, from a neighboring town. She also appears in Paul McCartney's music video "Dance Tonight" from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full directed by Michel Gondry.

Portman also has a cameo in the Wes Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited opposite Jason Schwartzman, and will star opposite Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in the drama film Brothers, a remake of the 2004 Danish film of the same name.
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