Natalie Portman: An American-Israeli Actress and Filmmaker

Natalie Portman, born as Neta-Lee Hershlag on June 9, 1981, is a renowned American-Israeli actress, director, and film producer. She is best known for her exceptional talent in the film industry and has received numerous awards throughout her career, including an Academy Award for her role in "Black Swan."

Early Life

Neta-Lee Hershlag was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her father, Avner Hershlag, is an Israeli doctor specializing in fertility, while her mother, Shelley Stevens (formerly Adelstein), was born in the United States to American Jewish parents who had roots in Austria, Lithuania, and Poland. Her paternal grandparents, Mania (née Portman) and Zvi Yehuda Hershlag, immigrated to Israel from Romania and Poland, respectively.

At the age of 4, her family relocated to the United States, initially residing in Washington, D.C., in 1988, moving to Connecticut, and eventually settling on Long Island, New York, in 1990, due to her father's professional commitments. She was raised in a pluralistic and conservative Jewish environment and attended Jewish day schools. Portman's stage surname "Portman" is her maternal grandmother's maiden name, which she adopted to maintain her privacy.

At the age of 11, Portman was discovered by a Revlon talent scout while eating pizza at a local restaurant. Her potential as a model was evident even at such a young age.

Portman holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Harvard University, where she also worked as a research assistant for Professor Alan Dershowitz and contributed to his book "Israel - A Partial Defense." As an accomplished student, she was even included in the Intel Science Talent Search, which tracks scientific talents. While at Harvard, she also published a letter of protest in the student newspaper, "The Harvard Crimson," opposing an editorial that criticized Israel's policies toward Palestinians.

Later, she spent half a year as part of the Harvard University Exchange Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During her academic pursuits, she co-authored two scientific papers, one of which earned her an Ardós-Béki (Honors) 7. Portman also served as a guest lecturer at Columbia University, discussing topics related to terrorism and the War on Terror, influenced by her role in the film "V for Vendetta."

Rise to Fame

Portman's journey to stardom began when she secured her stage name in the French-language film "Léon: The Professional," in which she played Mathilda, a young girl mentored by a professional hitman named Léon. Her success continued in subsequent films, including "Beautiful Girls" and "Everyone Says I Love You," in which she played supporting roles. However, her breakthrough came when she starred as Padmé Amidala in the prequel trilogy of "Star Wars" films, released between 1999 and 2005.

In 2005, Portman returned to Israel to film the Hebrew-language movie "Free Zone," directed by Amos Gitai, in which she co-starred with Hanna Laslo. That same year, she received critical acclaim for her role in "Closer" and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as earning an Academy Award nomination. Her career continued to flourish, and in 2011, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in "Black Swan." She also received a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a BAFTA Award for her outstanding performance.

Personal Life

In December 2010, Portman revealed that she was pregnant and engaged to Benjamin Millepied, a French choreographer she met while working on the set of "Black Swan." On June 14, 2011, she gave birth to their first child, a son. The couple later married in a Jewish ceremony in Big Sur, California, in August 2012. In January 2014, it was revealed that Millepied was undergoing a 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.

In addition to her acting career, Portman has been politically active. She has supported Democratic presidential candidates such as John Kerry and Barack Obama. She is also involved in women's rights initiatives in Africa.

In 2006, Portman co-founded a joint initiative with the Jewish Federation called "FINCAVARS," aimed at collecting donations to support the rehabilitation of northern Israel after the Second Lebanon War.

In November 2017, Portman was announced as the recipient of the Genesis Prize for 2018, an honor often referred to as the "Jewish Nobel Prize." However, in April 2018, Portman's representatives stated that due to recent events in Israel, specifically referring to the Gaza border protests and Palestinian casualties, Portman was uncomfortable with participating in public events in Israel.

She clarified that her decision was not a boycott of Israel but a statement against the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. Consequently, the Genesis Prize was canceled, and the prize money was redirected to women's rights organizations. Portman later accused Israel's nation-state law of being discriminatory.

Career Beyond Acting

Portman's career has extended beyond acting into directing. In 2015, she completed her directorial debut, the Hebrew-language film "A Tale of Love and Darkness," in which she also played the role of her own mother, inspired by the book of the same name by Amos Oz.

In 2016, she starred in the film "Jackie," portraying Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for which she received widespread acclaim, won several awards, and was nominated for her third Golden Globe Award. She also returned to her role as Jane Foster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film "Thor: The Dark World" in 2013 and "Thor: Love and Thunder," which was released in 2022.

Portman has continued to explore various genres and styles in her career, with notable films such as "Annihilation" (2018) and "Vox Lux" (2018). She has consistently proven herself to be a versatile and accomplished actress in both mainstream and independent cinema.

Natalie Portman's multifaceted career, activism, and commitment to her beliefs have made her a respected figure in the entertainment industry and beyond. Her influence extends far beyond the silver screen, as she continues to use her platform to advocate for causes she believes in while leaving an indelible mark on the world of film.

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