Natalie Portman: A Journey from Jerusalem to Hollywood
Natalie Portman, originally named Neta-Lee Hershlag, was born on June 9, 1981. She is an accomplished American-Israeli actress, filmmaker, and producer who has won an Oscar for her role in the film "Black Swan."
Portman first burst onto the scene in 1994 when she starred alongside Jean Reno in the film "Léon: The Professional." Since then, she has appeared in numerous films, including the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, "Closer," "Black Swan," and "V for Vendetta." In 2005, she was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for her role in "Closer." In 2011, she clinched the Oscar for Best Actress, the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and the BAFTA Award for her outstanding performance in "Black Swan."
Neta-Lee Hershlag was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her father, Avner Hershlag, is an Israeli doctor specializing in fertility, and her mother, Shelley Stevens (née Adelshtein), was born in the United States to parents of Jewish descent who hailed from Austria, Lithuania, and Poland. Her paternal grandparents, Mania (née Portman) and Zvi Yehuda Hershlag, immigrated to Israel from Romania and Poland, respectively.
When she was four years old, her family moved to the United States. She was raised in a pluralistic and conservative Jewish household. Initially residing in Washington, D.C. in 1988, they moved to Connecticut and then to Long Island, New York in 1990, following her father's career. Portman is fluent in Hebrew, and she adopted "Portman" as her stage name to preserve her privacy.
At the age of 11, Portman was discovered by a Revlon agent in a pizza parlor, and she expressed interest in modeling.
Portman holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Harvard University, where she worked as a research assistant for Professor Alan Dershowitz and contributed to the writing of his book "Israel - The Case for Defense." She was recognized as a talented science student and was included in the follow-up program for Intel Science Talent Search.
As a student, she also authored a protest letter against an editorial in "The Harvard Crimson" criticizing Israeli policies towards Palestinians. Later, Portman spent half a year as a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as part of Harvard's student exchange program. During her academic years, she participated in the writing of two scientific papers, one of which won her an Ardolph Beykam 7 award.Portman also served as a guest lecturer at Columbia University on topics related to terrorism and the War on Terror, inspired by her role in the film "V for Vendetta."
After being introduced to talent agents, she acquired her name in the French-English film "Léon: The Professional," where she portrayed Mathilda, a young protegé of an aging hitman named Léon. Her success continued in her next films, "Beautiful Girls" and "Everyone Says I Love You," in which she played supporting roles. Portman gained even more recognition when she starred as Padmé Amidala in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy (1999, 2002, and 2005).
In 2005, she returned to Israel to film the Israeli movie "Free Zone," in which she starred alongside Hanna Laslo and directed by Amos Gitai. That same year, her performance in "Closer" garnered worldwide acclaim and earned her a Golden Globe. She received multiple award nominations, including an Oscar nomination. In addition to her acting pursuits, Portman ventured into directing. In 2008, she directed a short film titled "Eve."
In January 2011, she received the Best Actress award at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards for her role in "Black Swan." Subsequently, she won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actress on February 27, 2011. She also received recognition from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for her outstanding performance in the same film.
In 2011, Portman starred in the romantic comedy "No Strings Attached" alongside Ashton Kutcher. Later in the year, she played the central female character in the Marvel Comics superhero film "Thor" as Jane Foster. In 2013, she reprised her role in "Thor: The Dark World."
In 2015, Portman completed her directorial debut with the Hebrew-language film "A Tale of Love and Darkness," in which she also portrayed her mother, based on the memoir by Israeli author Amos Oz, which she acquired the rights to in 2007.
In 2016, the biographical drama film "Jackie" was released, starring Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, wife of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Portman received acclaim for her portrayal, winning the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress and earning nominations for her third Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress.
She also starred in the biographical drama film "The Death and Life of John F. Donovan" (2018) alongside Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, and Susan Sarandon.
On March 20, 2017, Portman appeared in the music video for James Blake's song "My Willing Heart" just days before giving birth to her daughter, Amalia. That same month, the film "Song to Song," a romantic drama directed by Terrence Malick, was released, featuring Portman alongside Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, and Rooney Mara. The film was shot in 2011.
In addition, it was announced in 2017 that Portman would make her television debut and star in the miniseries "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves," based on Karen Joy Fowler's best-selling novel, which would air on HBO.
In 2018, she appeared in the science fiction-drama film "Annihilation" on Netflix, alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh. The same year, she starred in the musical drama film "Vox Lux," which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
In December 2010, it was revealed that she was pregnant and engaged to French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, whom she met while working on the set of "Black Swan." On June 14, 2011, she gave birth to their first child, and they got married in a Jewish ceremony in Big Sur, California in August 2012. In January 2014, it was disclosed that Millepied was undergoing the process of conversion to Judaism, inspired by his wife, Portman. In March 2017, their second child, a daughter, was born.
Portman has been a vegetarian since the age of 8 and became a vegan in 2011 during her first pregnancy. She is an advocate for animal rights.
She has been an active supporter of Democratic presidential candidates such as John Kerry and Barack Obama during the U.S. presidential elections. She is also involved in women's rights initiatives in Africa.
In 2006, Portman co-founded a charity organization called "FINCA," alongside the Jewish Federation. The aim was to raise donations for the development of Northern Israel, especially in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War.
In November 2017, Portman was named as the recipient of the 2018 Genesis Prize. However, in April 2018, Portman's representatives stated that "recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her, and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel." She clarified that she was not boycotting Israel but rather expressing her opposition to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As a result, the Genesis Prize ceremony was canceled, and the prize money was redirected to women's rights organizations.
Portman later accused Israel's nation-state law of being discriminatory.
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