About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
March 2006
V for Vendetta : An Interview with Natalie Portman

V for Vendetta: An Interview with Natalie Portman

by Brad Balfour

Familiar with science fiction-themed films, actress Natalie Portman uses her character Evey in "V For Vendetta" to test both her acting skills and her political judgment while making a profound and timely statement. "V For Vendetta" details the story of a revolutionary who challenges the dominance of a Hitler-like dictator who rigs a disaster to prompt the fear that stirs the population to make him the Supreme Leader. As Evey, Portman becomes entangled in V's campaign against the government and finally becomes his instrument for effecting his revolution.

Based on the groundbreaking graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd the story has been updated from Margaret Thatcher's England of the '80s to a near-future that could serve as a metaphor for George Bush's government.

Clearly possessed of equal doses of beauty and intelligence, the Israeli born Portman has gone from one revolutionary scenario-the comic book like "The Star Wars" saga-to this intelligent and provocative bit of cinema based on a comic book.

But that's not all for Portman. The politically charged indie "Free Zone" is about to come out and she will be appearing in films directed by the likes of Olivier Assayas ("Paris je t'aime") Milos Forman ("Goya's Ghost") and Zach Helm ("Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium.")

How was it acting opposite Hugo [Weaving] who played V, a character behind a mask the entire time he was on screen?

Natalie Portman: Hugo is an incredible, amazing actor so even though he had that barrier of not being able to use his face--which we're so used to using as film actors with the camera right there--he was able to use his physicality and his voice to really create his character. Hugo is such an actor that just by his physical and vocal expressions you could tell exactly who he was; I think as an audience you can feel that.

Did that pose any new challenges for you as an actor?

NP: There's also an incredible engagement that takes place because you're always wondering what's going on behind it. You're asking yourself, "Is he crying now? Is he smiling?" You're trying to get into his mind in a way to the point where you almost become V. That's even more exciting than normally. It earns its action scenes. It has a compelling story so you actually care about what's going on in the action scenes. It's not gratuitous, and the action scenes are a great reward to that story because they're pretty stylized, and are stuff that you've never seen before. It's like a sweet taste.

What was it like sharing your scenes with a man in a mask?

NP: Even though he had the obstacle of not being able to use his face as a tool, his vocal and physical expressiveness was so specific that I had this amazing performance opposite me and whatever I was doing as an actress, [wondering] what is going on with him behind the mask-is he smiling right now? Is he crying? Is he angry?-the character is going through, too, so I could use it.

So you didn't try it on at all?

NP: I may've but with his sweat in that [laughs]? I think the make-up artist's main job was to wipe the beads of sweat off the mask's beard.

Your character has a love-hate relationship with V--was that your take on it?

NP: One of the most exciting things about the characters' relationship is that it is always changing, which is what real relationships are like. In different contexts, we play different roles in relationships. Sometimes, we're the protector; sometimes we're the tormentor. There are different moments when they are lovers, they are father-daughter, they're enemies, they're mentor-student, and so they go through all of these stages and they build up and at many points are all things at once.

In the scene where your hair was cut off; what were you thinking about as they cut it off?

NP: I was very focused on being where the character is at that moment, which is in a very traumatic place with this violence being committed against her. We only had one shot to do it because you can't go back and re-shave the head. We had several cameras on and we had rehearsed the head shaving with volunteer guys from the crew. But, for me personally it was a choice I was happy to make.

There's an article I read about Iran in Time magazine about how consumerism was used to quell the masses because young people, because they're allowed to have Mercedes and Gucci bags, are not raising their voices against the lack of freedom of press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, that we enjoy. So, there is that aspect of reading this comfortable material might make you more likely to conform.

How did you feel that you were to shave your head?

NP: For me, personally, I was excited to have the opportunity to throw vanity away for a little and go around with no hair, but, obviously, I was in character at the moment it happened, so for her it is a very traumatic experience. She is not choosing it. It's being forced upon her as a pretty violent act.

That was the biggest stress of the whole scene was that we only had one chance. In movies we're so spoiled. If you mess up, you can always do it again and this was not the case. We had several cameras that rehearsed many times shooting it and they shaved other guys' volunteers' heads to make sure the razor wasn't going to mess up and I just tried to stay focused and do my best job with the chance we had.

Did you know going in that you'd have to get your head shaved?

NP: Mm-hmm.

Was there any trepidation?

NP: No, it was always something I've wanted to do. Making a dramatic change that isn't reversible is always a worthy experience, and that sort of gave me the courage to do it. And obviously for the character, it's a very traumatic experience because of how it's forced upon her, and in such a violent way, it's committed upon her.

Is it tough doing it on camera, when you can't screw it up?

NP: That's the biggest stress of it. For the rest of the movie, if we make a mistake, we can always do it over, but not this scene. So they had several cameras on it, they had practiced with several razors, and the crew even volunteered to get their heads shaved, and made sure everything was working. I just tried to focus and do my best in my one chance.

Is that the most pressure you've ever been under?

NP: I would say so [laughs]. It's hard to get more shorn than that.

Did you have apprehension about the taking on the British accent?

NP: You definitely want to do the most believable job possible, and I worked with a great dialogue coach, Barbara Burker, who worked with me a month before, and was everyday with me on-set so that it got into my mind to the point where I didn't have to think about it so that it sort of came naturally.

There are a lot of British words and phrases that have dual meanings. Did you have any difficulties with those nuances?

NP: It was definitely a challenge to take on the accent because I wanted to, first of all, not be focusing on it too much when I was working that it actually broke into the character. I worked with the dialect coach for a month in Israel while I was there, and then she was there with me the whole time so that I could be comfortable enough that I could throw it away.

Page 1 | Page 2


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy