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July 2004
Garden State: An Interview with Natalie Portman

By Wilson Morales

Garden State: An Interview with Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman is one of the actresses who has never really played a teenager's role even though she was a teenager at the time. From the time she blazed on the scene with her performance in "The Professional" to nabbing the coveted role of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia's mom in the Star Wars film series, Portman has played matured role, and it only gets better. Coming out on July 30 is her latest film, Garden State, in which she plays Sam, a woman who suffers from various maladies and hooks up with someone who returns home for his mother's funeral. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Portman talks about her character being in love, staying in New York as opposed to Hollywood, and working with Julia Roberts in the upcoming film, Closer. This film explores characters who are making the transition from adolescence into adulthood.

Do you remember your own experience?

Natalie Portman: The transition between leaving college (Harvard), maybe that's just what I'm currently in, but it's scary. All of a sudden you're grown up and all that external discipline of someone else giving you your schedule and someone else telling you what you're gonna do and how to structure yourlife (in college) and then all of a sudden you're going, 'where am I going, what am I doing, who am I?'What am I gonna be? I'm supposed to be married with children and a career by now. I had no idea. It's just what you imagined yourself to be after school is done and then who you are after that is such two different things. That's kind of shocking.

This is such a wonderful love story. Is this how you pictured what love would be like?

NP: I try my best not to picture love because I have a feeling it's not gonna be anything like what you expect because it's all different types of things. Each one is it's own different love. I so appreciate Zach's (Braff, the director, star, and writer) vision for this relationship because most guys when they write their dream girl in a script they write some hot girl who eats pizza all day and is two pounds and love sports and walks around in her underwear and is really compassionate and understanding of all his needs. Zach wrote a dream girl who is a total freak. She is a weird kooky girl with her own issues. It's not just finding someone who is gonna be there for you but someone who is another human being to interact with.

What are the qualities that are important to you in a relationship?

NP: The humor in the relationship is probably always a nice thing to have. It's always good to be able to laugh at each and at yourselves.

One of the ways Zach's character woos you is by taking you for a ride on the sidecar of his old-fashioned motorcycle. Do you like to ride?

NP: No. It makes me really nervous. Everyone I know who has as motorcycle gets into some bad things so it makes me nervous. It was really fun with the whole sidecar. It's not a real motorcycle.

This movie is about coming home after you've tried to make a success of yourself in Hollywood. What's it like when you return home to Long Island?

NP: I never really left home. I've been leaving home all the time since I was a kid because I would go and make movies and then went away to college like everybody else does. I still live in the same place since I was nine, the same area. I have my own place, I don't live with my parents but I still live on Long Island (Syosset) and I still have the same friends that I've had since I was twelve and they've been friends with me throughout (my career) and I've been working throughout so it's not a new thing that I have to address. It's not really a shock for me to go home. I was also lucky because all my friends after college also moved to New York where I live so I'm very lucky.

Why did you choose living in your home town over living in Hollywood?

NP: It wasn't a conscious decision to stay away from Hollywood as much as it was to be with the people I like being with; my friends and my family are in New York and I would be really lost without them. I think at a certain point you have to find your home in yourself. I travel so much that I end up alone in a foreign country for three months at a time and you really have to have a strong sense of your home being in you and comfortable with you. Maybe a few things you bring with you (like a lot of books and movies and pictures of my family and friends and my dog) to make you feel more comfortable but I do get so lost and sad when I'm away. I had that before when I wasn't as comfortable with myself and I would leave and feel so out of it. I need to be near people I have my relationships with.

Do you still think of yourself as a movie star even though you don't live in Hollywood?

NP: I mean I'm a movie actress and I'm famous I guess on magazines and stuff, so sure I'd be a movie star. I'd be sort of lying to say no, but I'm not Julia (Roberts). I walk down the street and I take the train. I'm left alone.

Are you a fan of Method Man's who plays the hotel bellman in Garden State?

NP: I was so intimidated because he's a real cool rapper and I'm a little Jewish Long Island girl. He was really nice and professional. I was expecting a cloud of smoke out of his trailer since How High and he came and he knew his lines and was real sober. It was a little disappointing but also really impressive.

With the next installment of Star Wars coming up, when you look back what has it brought to your life?

NP: The coolest thing about being in Star Wars is having kids who love you. All my fans before that were older men which is weird when you're a twelve year old kid (from The Professional). All of a sudden I finally made a movie that was for kids and that was exciting because all my peers were making the fun teen movies and kid movies and kid mystery spy movies and I never ended up doing them so it was sort of fun to end up doing the fantasy kid thing. That's very exciting when you walk by a kid and they smile and they're all excited. That's a cool thing.

What it was like to work with Julia Roberts again in Closer?

NP: She is so wonderful. We've just become closer. I met her for the first time on Everyone Says I Love You which I didn't get any scenes with her but I met her then. I've seen her throughout and we've always wanted to work together (again) and she's so cool. She's such a good actress, she gets so under rated. It was really fun to work with her in (Closer). She's sweet but she can be nasty too which I like (laughs). Not nasty, mean, but the way she jokes around can be a sweet sort of innocent humor but she can get a little nasty. I really like her. She's a good girl.

What was the reason for the raunchy gifts you exchanged with Julia when Closer wrapped?

NP: You'll understand when you see Closer. It's a nasty dirty movie (laughs). It's funny and mean and it's the dark side of relationships.

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