Natalie Portman vs. Sarah Lane for Ms. Integrity U.S.A.

         
 

28 March 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Natalie Portman isn’t always a great actress. Take a look at “No Strings Attached” (on second thought, don’t). But she often is a great actress. What comes to mind is “V for Vendetta,” “Closer,” “Garden State,” Beautiful Girls,” “Heat,” and that satiric Digital Short she did on Saturday Night Live called “Natalie Raps” with Chris Parnell – available to view on nbc.com. And she was an exceptionally great actress and great dancer in “Black Swan.” Director Darren Aronofsky has a direct eye-line way of shooting his actors in sealed centered frame close-ups. She deserved the Oscar for Best Actress.

But now Sarah Lane, the American Ballet Theatre soloist who was Portman’s body double on the film, has groveled for attention. “Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie,” Lane said in the Los Angeles Times, and claims it is a “cover-up” designed by digital doctoring filmmakers.

Before I quote more of her complaint, let me just pose one question: Does Sarah Lane hate “Black Swan” as a film? Sheesh. OK, here is more of Lane’s complaint:

“They wanted to create this idea in people’s minds that Natalie was some kind of prodigy or so gifted in dance and really worked so hard to make herself a ballerina in a year and a half for the movie, basically because of the Oscar.”

So Portman’s Oscar had nothing to do with her other emotional fluctuations or behavioral complexities? To Lane, this “cover-up” now merits all attempts to demean Portman’s talent.

Without tact Lane continues, “It is demeaning to the profession and not just to me. I’ve been doing this for 22 years. Can you become a concert pianist in a year and a half, even if you’re a movie star?”

Another resource to back-up her argument includes a viral internet video (that looked doctored and double-doctored itself, that is, until it was removed from YouTube), that tried to be a revealing demo reel of Lane doing the work herself with Portman’s head replaced on her body. Who would have thought that a classically trained ballerina would have such a posse fan base as to go out of the way to vilify Portman and the film? And the idea that team Lane could get a rough cut of the film before being manipulated by editing tools is certainly a far-fetched procurement.

So what really prompted Lane to come out? Was it the fact that Oscar doesn’t have an award for best body double or is it because of the statement that Portman’s fiancé Benjamin Millepied (pic right) made in the March 23rd copy of the Los Angeles Times? “Honestly, 85 percent of that movie is Natalie,” he said, in response to her dance scenes. Millepied was also an actor/choreographer on the film.

It’s not as if Portman has ever arrogantly boasted her abilities either. “I do have a body double for the complicated turning stuff,” she told EW last November. “It was not anything I ever could have done in a year, nothing I could’ve caught up with. But I think it was just better for all of us if I did as much as possible.” Not in any point in her publicity tour did Portman comment disrespectfully about her film, her director, her choreographer, her co-stars, or her body double.

Currently in Portman’s defense is Fox Searchlight with this executive released statement: “We were fortunate to have Sarah there to cover the more complicated dance sequences and we have nothing but praise for the hard work she did. However, Natalie herself did most of the dancing featured in the final film.” For Lane, 15% of the credit was obviously not enough. The always well-spoken and thoroughly educated Aronofsky has declined to comment on this controversy, nor does he need to. Even though when Lane insults Portman she is also insulting the film, a proven maestro like Aronofsky need not tremble in rebuke.

Update: Four hours after this article was posted, Darren Aronofsky released a statement to EW.

“Here is the reality. I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that’s 80% Natalie Portman. What about duration? The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second. There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement. Even so, if we were judging by time over 90% would be Natalie Portman.

And to be clear Natalie did dance on pointe in pointe shoes. If you look at the final shot of the opening prologue, which lasts 85 seconds, and was danced completely by Natalie, she exits the scene on pointe. That is completely her without any digital magic. I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor. Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don’t want anyone to think that’s not her they are watching. It is. .”.”””

Who does this hurt in the end? It resolutely comes down to, and should come down to, hurting Lane. Nobody in Hollywood should ever come knocking at her door again for consultant or body double work. The American Ballet Company should belt a firm reprimand for poor ambassadorship onto her. So don’t trust this face (pic right, Sarah standing with bad posture).

When I read the original Los Angeles Times article, my immediate reaction that I had to this is that Lane is a sourpuss. Simple, bottom line and nothing but. I’m sure Lane is so callous that if she could, she would turn back the clock, ruin Portman’s chances by slandering her prior to the nominations, and jump up and down after Portman lost. But if that were true, Lane would be more than a sourpuss, she would be something of a witch.

New Update 4/15/11: Sarah Lane sits down with Elizabeth Vargas on 20/20 to continue her smear campaign. She says not much of anything new, she’s there just to kvetch. “I’m not speaking because I feel I should be heralded… I’m speaking because the [filmmakers] are completely lying about the amount of dancing that Natalie did in the movie.” According to her, ballet was not given respect in the film or on the set which incited her to speak out. “The [filmmakers] threaten the entire principle of ballet. I feel like I need to say something.” She did say however that Portman deserved the Oscar for the acting part. “I think she’s a really beautiful actress. I loved working with her. I definitely thinks that she deserves it,” she concludes in the tone of a sycophant.

What comment of Lane’s pissed me off the most? “It’s just a movie, you know? I mean, that’s really all it is. We [the ballet company] continue to do what we do everyday. We know what real life is for us.” This is exactly the problem in the way people denigrate the name of cinema. This is exactly why FlickMinute.com had the official launch tagline, “Movies are Entertainment. Films are Art. Sometime the Two Meet.” The thoughtless swine that Lane is has never considered that “Black Swan” is an art film, and that its ambitions go beyond movie entertainment. She can’t even understand the class reputation of filmmaker Darren Aronofsky whom she worked under. If cinema is not an art and Aronofsky is not to be respected (nor Natalie) in the eyes of Lane, why does she still care? Postscript, I can think of a word that rhymes with witch.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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