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“Pop stars are just so much more famous than actors,” says Natalie Portman. “It’s a different level of fame – of not being able to go anywhere and have people treat you like a regular person.”

We mere mortals might imagine Oscar-winning movie stars inhabit roughly the same exalted plane as chart-topping singers, but Portman insists not.

“The majority of my day is spent with people who have no idea who I am,” she says. “There are many places I go where I am just treated like another human being, and that’s the best thing. To have a kind, anonymous interaction with a stranger is the thing that gives you hope around humanity.”

Portman is expounding on the differences between these respective types of celebrity because in her latest film, Vox Lux, she plays a former teen pop star on the comeback trail.

“The opportunity to play a pop star was so fun,” she says of the film, which is part A Star is Born and part Bowling for Colombine.

It starts with a schoolroom massacre and ends with 15 minutes or so of concert footage, in which Portman’s single-name pop star Celeste struts her stuff in leotard and glitter make-up, flanked by dancers and singing her heart out.

Over a day and a half of shooting, they repeatedly filmed the entire concert scene, just down the road from her childhood home in Long Island. “We did it a lot, the whole 12 or 15 minutes of dancing, singing, everything together,” she says. “It was really hard but fun. I felt my age for sure.”

We first meet Celeste as a 13-year-old high-school student. She emerges from the shooting with a bullet permanently lodged in her spine and an urge to put her feelings about the situation into song, helped by her older sister Eleanor (Stacy Martin).

When she sings the song at a memorial service, she seems to encapsulate the nation’s grief. Soon, she’s signed to a record label, has a manager (Jude Law), and is on her way to being reshaped as a viable pop product.

The young Celeste is played by Raffey Cassidy, who resurfaces in the second half of the film, set 18 years later, as Albertine, daughter of the grown-up – and thoroughly messed-up – Celeste (Portman).

While Stacy Martin and Jude Law play the younger and older versions of their characters, Portman says writer-director Brady Corbet had two different actors play Celeste because he wanted to show how the music industry can take a person and transform them “into this whole different human being … [who] turns into this creation, a kind of monster”.

Did that aspect of the story have special resonance for Portman, who burst into the public eye as a 12-year-old in Luc Besson’s hitman drama Leon? After all, she has spoken recently about her experience of being exposed to the industry’s sexualisation of young women at such a tender age, and of receiving rape fantasy “fan mail” as a 13-year-old.

“I hope I’m not very similar to Celeste,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t feel very similar to her in my real life. And also I think the pop music and acting worlds are quite different.

“In pop you have this persona who is sort of an extension of your own personality, and in acting you’re really supposed to be very different. You’re more commended if you transform from what people perceive to be your real personality.”

Vox Lux is on limited release from Thursday February 21.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

“In the Envelope: An Awards Podcast” features intimate interviews with award-winning actors and other creatives. Join host and Awards Editor Jack Smart for a front row seat to the industry’s most exciting awards races, and valuable acting and career advice from contenders!

Today’s award-winning “In the Envelope” podcast guest needs no introduction, but we’ll try to give her one anyway.

Actor, producer, director, and activist Natalie Portman is one of Hollywood’s brightest talents. Born in Jerusalem, Israel, and raised in Long Island, New York, she burst onto the scene as a pre-teen in “Léon: The Professional” (after understudying in the Off-Broadway musical “Ruthless!”) and began relentlessly pursuing a life in the arts. As she tells Backstage, “when you’re that age, there’s just a pure love for what you’re doing…. If you’re an adult and wondering where your passion lies, think about what you loved when you were 11 years old.”

At the same time, however, Portman and her parents were sure to balance academics with what became a skyrocketing film career (she has famously said, “I’d rather be smart than a movie star”). While attending Harvard University, she used her summer breaks to star as Padmé Amidala in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy and work with Mike Nichols onstage after he saw her on Broadway in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” She then began captivating audiences, critics, and awards voters with her choices on camera; “Garden State,” her Oscar-nominated “Closer,” “V for Vendetta,” her Oscar-winning “Black Swan,” the “Thor” films, her directorial debut “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” her Oscar and SAG-nominated “Jackie,” and many more projects that have defied expectations at every turn.

Last year proved to be another fascinating chapter in Portman’s filmography. In writer-director Alex Garland’s Paramount Pictures sci-fi thriller “Annihilation,” she delved into extraterrestrial, psychological nuance alongside Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. And in actor-turned-director Brady Corbet’s NEON drama “Vox Lux,” she played an explosive, damaged pop star opposite Jude Law and Raffey Cassidy. In this interview, Portman reveals the many factors that go into choosing and preparing for such roles, and discusses her veganism and advocacy work, particularly for the growing #TimesUp movement. (To donate to their legal defense fund, click here.) Also, if your audition game isn’t strong, you’ll want to hear how many jobs she’s booked through auditioning.

Source: Backstage

For costume designer Keri Langerman, the intrepid Vox Lux was an “incredibly interesting” project to take on, that could be “incredibly intimidating” in equal part. Defying categorization by genre and not easily captured in a log line, the Neon drama follows Celeste (Raffey Cassidy, and later, Natalie Portman), an ordinary teenager who survives a school shooting in 1999. From this moment, she is never the same, going on to become a pop star whose anthems dominate the airwaves, reshaping tragedy and trauma into artistic expression for the masses.

With its younger and older versions of Celeste, the film pointedly critiques the world of today, setting up an expanded timeline, and playing with form throughout to chart one uniquely talented woman’s metamorphosis. Prior to Vox, Langerman had never worked with it visionary director, Brady Corbet, at least in this context. For her, the extent of Corbet’s confidence, and his willingness to experiment, could be daunting, as she learned to work in new ways. “There were definitely points throughout the film where I questioned my ability to keep up with Brady, because he’s, in my mind, a genius,” she says. “I was in a constant state of making sure whatever I was putting forth was the absolute best version, because that’s what he was doing.”

Starting out on the project with total commitment, the costume designer avoided looking at any one pop star as an exact model for Celeste, turning to unusual sources for inspiration. Finding her ultimate test in Celeste’s stage performance that closes the film, Langerman got creative throughout the entire process, sourcing just the right fashions for a cast that included Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle, Christopher Abbott, and Cassidy, in dual roles. For Portman, an advocate for animal rights, she sought out vegan-friendly clothing, and in doing so, considered changing her process forever.

How did you come to work on Vox Lux?

I had seen that the film had gotten green lit, and my agent had told me about it because I had worked with Brady as an actor. I’d also designed one of his wife’s movies 4 or 5 years ago, but I didn’t want to use any preexisting relationships to try to award myself a job. So, I submitted what I thought would be a design proposal through my agency, and within a few hours of receiving it, Brady texted me, “You’re crazy, you should have just emailed this to me. It’s amazing; let’s work together.” There were some other people in the mix perhaps, but in the end it just clicked. We were speaking each other’s language. I knew I wanted to do this film based on Brady. I’d seen Childhood of a Leader, I love his wife Mona [Fastvold], and I loved his work as an actor, and the synopsis, so I was all in. And then when I read the script, it blew my mind. The way he writes, you can absolutely feel the aesthetic, the amount of direction and emotion, and all these things that are so tangible.

When I’d finished reading the script, I redesigned a design board and sent it to him, and the project stopped and started quite a bit. But we just kept working together throughout the year until production came up. We had a lot of time to ruminate over things, so that when the time came to go into pre-pro with just four weeks, he and I already had an understanding of where we wanted to go.

What did your design proposal entail?

I had a lot of focus on both Act One and Act Two. It was a very obvious thing that Act Two was going to be every costume designer’s dream of the big stage performance. It had a lot of drama to it, but I wanted to make sure that I was focusing on both [parts], with the same amount of excitement and attention to detail. I think I made 50 different versions of [this conceptual layout] by the time we went to share boards with the production crew. But for the first one, I tried to take his script and block it out every 10 to 15 pages, with mood boards that recapped what the script was doing, so he could see the design in a timeline.

It was a lot of historical references. Of course, I researched school shootings, and pop stars, and all that stuff. But I knew looking at too many actual pop stars, it would be super easy to let them influence the way I was going to dress Celeste. I wanted her to feel like her own person, specific to this film and the world that he was building, not a replica of someone who is out there right now performing music.

What kinds of materials proved most useful in getting to the essence of this character?

For this, I really tried not to look at people, but I looked at a lot at architecture. Brady has this futuristic sci-fi aesthetic in this film, and I wanted to look at architecture that mirrored that thing. So with Celeste, [and] her cape, I think I was looking at the new World Trade Center, at the sharp points. I wanted to make sure that I was getting inspiration from things that were not necessarily stage costumes, so that I could really feel like the process was going to be pure, and that the product would be original in that way.

Of course, I did look at people, too. I wanted to mainly make sure I was looking at that for structural inspiration, but I did look at some pop icons from mostly the late ’70s, early ’80s, and I tried to focus on pop stars in the very beginning of their careers. I think that’s a really interesting time: They don’t have a lot of money, they don’t have stylists; they don’t have people curating their every look.From the get-go, Brady and I knew that this was not going to be a movie where we wanted fashion speaking louder than the character, or a perfect, polished image that we were going to put forth. I really felt like Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Kim Gordon, this type of aesthetic…If we could roll these people into one person, and look at them in the early stages of their career, and how they chose to dress themselves, there was really something there.

Could you elaborate on the visual arc you constructed for Celeste over the course of the film?

I always wanted to make sure that Act One Celeste and Act Two Celeste felt like the same person, and I think a big part of her style journey was her neck coverings. When I read the script, I knew we were going to have to be covering that, and I wanted to use that as something that could evolve throughout her age and career, but then also be distinct enough that we can look at an image from different points in time, and know it’s the same character.

We decided pretty early on that it wasn’t going to look like jewelry in the traditional sense; I wanted it to feel a bit medical or practical, in a way that showed that it was something that she was using to close herself off, and protect herself from the outside world. It was something that a lot of the design for her character was centered on, and it’s the cut of her shirts, and jackets, and her stage costume as well. I tried to make sure that I wasn’t just doing a bunch of necklaces; that we would do clothing that would come up high, and chokers, or metal, or different materials, so that it felt like a natural choice.

In Vox Lux, Raffey Cassidy plays dual roles—as young Celeste, and later, as the pop star’s daughter, Albertine. How did you work through the challenge of visually differentiating an actress for dual roles?

Obviously, I was aware that it was the same person, but I tried to approach it first like they were two different actors, so that I could make sure I could see each actor in their truest light. Then, after designing both characters, pretending like they were going to be played by two completely different people, it was more technical. “Oh, let’s make the pant legs skinnier here.” In Act One, she’s got more of a flared bootleg ’90s cut, and then in Act Two, it’s a very skinny, straight leg jean. So it was things like that, where you have to be specific and period-correct, complementing the body. I knew with Act Two, we were going to be able to see her neck, and all these things that we never saw in Act One. So, I felt like it was going to do the job itself, and all I had to do was make sure to be aware of, and pay attention to that, and not get in the way of that character too much.

How much of your wardrobe for this film was sourced? When you sourced, what resources did you turn to?

Most everything was sourced, except for Natalie’s stage costume, and her backup dancer costumes. A lot of her costumes were sourced and tweaked because we didn’t want to use animal products on Natalie. For the purple leather jacket, we bought a vegan-friendly jacket, and we had to paint a couple different versions of it, to get it that purple that I wanted. Because we couldn’t just go into a store and buy a purple, vegan leather jacket that was going to work on camera, in the exact shade that we needed it to.

The same with her stage costume, and the backup dancers. I had designed this costume over and over, trying to figure out where the perfect place was to build something that was both iconic and simple, intricate and sophisticated. Once we figured out that it was going to be a catsuit, my anxiety came with not knowing if I was going to be able to pull that off, technically, so we hired LaQuan Smith, an incredible fashion designer. I showed him my sketches, and said, “I know you are your own fashion designer, but can you help me with this? Because I know that you can do this silhouette.”

[Because we were] doing an independent film, we didn’t have a full-time tailor, or any of those things. We were scrapping around, and I knew that this was a place where I needed someone who knew how to do something like this, and had done it a million times over. Because we had one shot. A lot of times, we’ll get to build a muslin, and we’ll get to fit it, but the first one we built was the one she ended up wearing. We had to alter it a lot, but we got one chance at it, and that was it.

The vegan things that I did end up getting for her were from Blank NYC. The jackets were from Blank, and the jeans were from R13. I had a lot of great people who wanted to be involved, and I’m very wary of product placement relationships, because I think a lot of times they can feel maybe not as genuine as a designer would like them to be. But I think it was challenging also because [given] the synopsis of the film, a lot of people didn’t know if they wanted to be involved. It was a risk; this is a completely original story, with an interesting log line, so it was about finding the right people.

For Jude Law, actually, I got an amazing amount of support. I knew from the beginning that we wanted to do a monochromatic look for him, and we tried on a couple different things. His jacket came from Valstar, which was made in Italy and feels like butter. They actually gifted that to us for free, which is super rare these days, and my gratitude was beyond words. It saved our budget, saved the film. Then, his pants, we had made in Italy, as well. I just really love Italian tailoring for men, and they were from Eidos. His gray turtleneck, we got as well from the UK, from a company called Enlist, so we had those items, and because he wore that outfit for days and days, we had two of them, so we could switch them out. All of Jude’s Act One stuff was sourced from thrift stores. I had never worked with Jude, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about wearing $2 jeans, but he loved it—which was a relief, because you have your vision, the director has their vision, and you just don’t know until you meet the actor how they’re going to feel about that.

Then, Raffey and Stacy, a lot of those were just sourcing. Definitely Act One was all about thrift store shopping. I made sure to go Long Island thrift stores, to find ’90s, ’80s clothing. The characters are from Long Island, so it just wasn’t going to work for me to go into some thrift store in New York City, or upstate New York. I wanted to do what I could to again, get these pieces from a place of authenticity.

To your knowledge, does Portman always ask for vegan-friendly clothing in her projects? She recently narrated and produced a documentary called Eating Animals, examining our dietary choices and the consequences therein, so her concern and love for animals is clear.

I’m not sure about her other films, but we had a conversation about a week before she came to New York to do her fitting, and she had just brought it up, in a very casual manner. “Is it possible if we could just not use animal products for my costumes?” And I said, “Absolutely.” I worked with Rooney Mara on a project, and had done that with her, and it’s something that I’m fully behind. It actually makes me wonder if I could do this with more, if not every project, because it is a senseless use of an animal, when you can get a cinematic, stunning movie without that. I really admired that she had her morals, and she wanted to stick to them, but it wasn’t something that she felt she needed to impose on people in an aggressive way. It just felt really natural, and when she asked, it was super easy, and we did it. I don’t think it was any harder; it was just a different way of doing costumes.

Source: Deadline

There’s a fairly clear divergence point in the career path of one Natalie Portman. Since winning the Oscar as a ballerina pirouetting on the edge of madness in 2010’s “Black Swan,” she has chosen fewer big studio projects and zeroed in on more idiosyncratic indie fare for directors with distinctive voices. But it wasn’t just the Oscar and how “Swan” changed directors’ perceptions of her that caused the swerve.

“The other thing was I had my first child after ‘Black Swan,’ so … it kind of ups the stakes of what you want to do because it’s time away from your kid,” says the Harvard grad and mother of two. “Now it feels like, I want to be so passionate and committed to what I’m doing; it feels like an incredible use of my time.”

She laughs and adds, “You have, obviously, very important people waiting for you at home.”

Her 16 features since 2010 include work with Terrence Malick, Pablo Larraín, Alex Garland and Xavier Dolan. And now, currently in that line is Brady Corbet’s “Vox Lux.”

In the new film, Portman plays Celeste, a Madonna-ish pop star whose life and career are marked by two horrific acts of violence. In the film’s first half, young Raffey Cassidy portrays her during her formative years. By the time Portman takes over in the story, the hardened Celeste bears little resemblance to that girl. The actress is delighted that the careening, loose-cannon character also bears little resemblance to herself.

“I don’t want to go to work and play, like, a harried mom,” she says. “I am a harried mom. It’s fun to get to go to work and be a pop star. Or an astronaut, which I just did. Or a military operative in a science-fiction landscape, like in ‘Annihilation.’ It feels like getting to lead another life. A little Superman action: One thing by day, one thing by night.”

Celeste in “Vox Lux” seems both Superman and Bizarro. Portman gets to be rude and extreme as someone who has grown up in the public eye and has become expert at presenting public and private faces. Portman’s first day of shooting captured what she calls the character’s “drug meltdown.” The actress also sings and dances in an extended performance sequence and doesn’t worry about Celeste being likable.

“She definitely does things that are monstrous,” Portman says with that frequent laugh. “I think that’s part of what’s reflective of our moment in time: that someone who can say awful things and do awful things can also be charismatic and alluring. It’s all in one package, and it’s hard to take out.

“Brady said, ‘Sometimes she says total nonsense. Sometimes she’s saying really horrible things. Sometimes she’s saying really interesting things. And sometimes she’s a good person.’ It’s so much more interesting and real that someone is different in different scenarios.”

Writer-director Corbet has said the film isn’t meant to comment on the issue of gun control, though two murderous shootings do shape its themes.

“It’s not a message movie; he calls it a ‘portrait’ of the time we live in,” Portman says. “He was like, ‘What are the big, violent conflicts of our time? This is our civil war.’ Currently, it’s school shootings and terrorism — one is the domestic conflict, and one is the international conflict.

“It’s the violence we live in right now and how we react to it, and kind of seeing this relationship between the treatment of media, journalism, news culture and audience attention — that the audience for news and the audience for a pop show are becoming one, and the more attention that you give is what gives it power.”

In researching pop stars, Portman’s takeaway was that being adored by millions is very hard work.

“It’s crazy. They’re in a different city every night and constantly flying and away from their homes. It’s like a marathon when you’re on tour,” she says, noting just how much of a physical feat she found the stage show to be. “And then the people who work with them become like this little family. So you’re also dealing with everyone around you — their dramas and conflicts and personalities.”

She saw a divide between the pop-music stardom such as Celeste gains at about 13 and the acting fame Portman has known since she debuted in “Léon: The Professional,” also at about 13.

“The part that [actors display] in the public eye — our creative work — is a character that’s not us, whereas for a pop star, you’re expected to be in your private life the same persona as what people see you as in performance. So I think that’s a trickier thing. If you project, like, this punk persona on stage and you’re walking down the street in no makeup and a frilly dress, you will lose your street cred, whereas as an actress, you’re applauded for that — playing a character totally different from yourself,” she says with a laugh.

Source: Los Angeles Times

For Natalie Portman in the year 2018, conventional movie stardom is a home she can always return to. As of late, however, she’s preferred to restrict herself to the occasional visit. The gaps between straight-down-the-middle studio projects have gotten wider, even though her presence at multiplexes never quite fades. It’s been five years since her last appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But as an actress with the name recognition to get stranger, smaller movies the green light, she’s grown judicious and adventurous in her role selection.

Her CV contains all the typical beats of your standard-issue A-lister résumé, just in their most unlikely or sophisticated form. These days, her version of a popcorn picture would be something like Annihilation, a heart-of-darkness march into the metaphysical unknown more conceptual than most modern sci-fi by half. Her take on Oscar bait would be Jackie, an elliptical meditation on grief and historicity which avoided cliché so defiantly that it polarized actual awards voters. Where other actors dabble in directing with glossy vanity projects, she returned to Israel to adapt a difficult novel for a film she didn’t even bother pushing all that hard in American theaters. Her peers might try to stretch their range with the occasional art film; she’s charted the limits of sense and experience in two collaborations with Terrence Malick.

Then there’s Vox Lux, a polarizing work of such ambition that it couldn’t possibly fit in the preceding paragraph. The first half follows a teenage girl named Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) through the crucible of tragedy along with her first steps as a newly minted pop star. Around the midway point, Brady Corbet’s film smash cuts forward 16 years and Portman steers the character into a downward spiral. The adult Celeste has a drinking problem, a drug problem, a being-a-negligent-mother problem, a terrorism problem, and a slew of other mental stressors that start to bear down on her as she readies her new concert tour. Here, Portman’s proficiency with women on the edge led to one of the most indelible performances of a challenging, unpredictable career.

During an interview with Vulture one frigid afternoon at Manhattan’s Whitby Hotel — a stone’s throw from the towering Sixth Avenue office buildings in which a guileless Celeste signs away her soul to the record executives — Portman talked all things Vox Lux, from her Noo Yawk accent to the massively scaled concert concluding the film to Celeste’s real-world inspiration. (Or lack thereof.)

First things first: the accent. Could you walk us through the process of forming Celeste’s voice?
I worked with my same dialect coach that I had on Jackie and Planetarium. She got dialects from a very specific subset of Staten Island, and then we just went full force with it. Because from the time she’s a kid, she’s exaggerating it in a way that makes it like an armor. There are people who, when they become famous, want to emphasize that they’re still from the street. It’s a shield of authenticity, and then the toughness also gives her more of a don’t-mess-with-me vibe. But of course, it’s transparently a performance. She’s on all the time.

I spoke with the director last week, and he had mentioned seeing some misinterpretations of the film. Have you found that dramatic choices like this can sometimes be misconstrued?
Hmm, I don’t know, if only because I don’t read the things people write about me.

That sounds healthy.
Oh, yeah. You latch onto the negative and ignore the positive, so I don’t find it to be helpful if it just makes me self-conscious. Plus, at this point, you’re not pointing out anything we can fix. I can’t go back in the film and change my accent. It doesn’t feel constructive, so I don’t have much of an idea of the reception apart from the interviews I’ve been doing, and face to face, people tend to be pretty friendly.

What’s been more interesting to me is how people make parallels to other roles I’ve done. People can draw thematic links that I’m too close to notice myself. I find all of this productive, more so than getting feedback on my portrayal. Pointing out running threads in my career makes me aware of what kinds of roles I’m drawn to, which I’m not really conscious of. I see my own tendencies more clearly.

The film being structured as it is, jumping from Celeste as a kid to her self-destructive adulthood, suggests that fame has had a poisonous effect on her over time. You’re someone who began acting at a very young age; was this something that you were mindful of, or made a conscious effort to avoid?

There are so many pop-culture stories of the child star flameout, the whole starlet gone wrong is a classic narrative in both music and Hollywood. I was definitely aware of that much, and my parents were hyperaware, so there was plenty of counterprogramming to my work.

Come to think of it, we don’t see much of Celeste’s parents at all in the film.
That was an active decision on [director] Brady [Corbet]’s part. We did interviews together earlier and he was talking about this exact thing, that he didn’t want to provide any easy answers, or fingers to point. That would be such a Western Intro to Psychology way to read the movie, like, “It was the parents! Of course!” To paraphrase what he said, some parents aren’t good or bad, they’re just neutral forces in their kids’ lives. They’re just there. Celeste isn’t a tragic victim of circumstance, either. She has an agency, a hand in her own demise. It empowers her, in a destructive sense.

My favorite scene might be when Celeste has the tantrum in the dressing room before the show. It feels unbound from realism, in a more accented style of performance. Is there an expressionistic quality to your acting?
Brady talks about the first half of the movie being in a minimalist mode, and the second half in a maximalist mode. It’s all extremes, and that goes for the acting as well. A lot of the stylistic choices — the fact that nobody ages in the film except Celeste, for one — there’s a purposeful fabulist side to it. So when my character calls for it, I take them a step back from reality. I think movies have lost a lot from trying to be naturalistic. Now, there are many films in a more naturalistic style that I love and move me a great deal, but there should be room for art on both sides of that divide. Most of the history of film is in the non-realistic world, tied up in fantasy and metaphor and fable. We got a lot of latitude from Celeste’s mantra, “They wanted a show, I gave ‘em a show.”

There’s a feedback mechanism, and this is what Brady means when he talks about the “pageantry of evil,” where people get rewarded with attention for bad behavior. The more outrageous, the more obnoxious, the more vulgar a figure can be, the more energy we spend on thinking and talking about them. It keeps cycling back into itself, and Celeste has already been through that cycle a lot of times in the second half.

I’ve seen a lot of interest in pinning the model for Celeste on a real-world pop star, and I wanted to offer you a chance to go on record.
No, there’s no one inspiration. Brady talks about her as an avatar for America. There’s not even a single pop star working right now that you could put your finger on. There are elements reminiscent of recurring tropes in pop stardom, the spiraling star who pulls it together, so you get shades from plenty of familiar stories. But these are archetypal. She’s not supposed to be a stand-in for anybody from the modern climate of pop music.

After having done Black Swan, was the lengthy final performance no big deal?
It was a very big deal! Going into any of these situations requires a great deal of ignorance about the scope of what will actually be expected of you. If you know what it’s going to entail, you’d never agree to it. But you go in blind, like, “Sure, I can figure this out in a month!” and then you just trust the experts around you and the [waves hand] magic of cinema. But this was a whole different variety of performing for me, learning the songs and recording and lip-sync training and moving with the other dancers. Keeping up the stamina for these rehearsals and the shoots gave me a new respect for what touring singers and dancers do.

My voice makes me want to jump out of my skin when I’m transcribing the recordings of interviews. How’d it feel to hear yourself for the first time in the final mixed recording, with all the Auto-Tune?
Oh, this was very fun! Because I had spent the studio sessions constantly apologizing, “I’m so sorry you have to listen to this,” and the song’s producer was like, “Ha! Don’t you worry your little head.” But then, when I heard it, I was thrilled. I asked Brady, when he first offered me the role, if he needed to hear me sing. And he just said, “That doesn’t matter.” In that moment, what he was going for started to make more sense to me.

Do you consider the ending to be redemptive for Celeste?
I do not. I think back to what Raffey says as Celeste in the beginning, “I don’t want them to think too much, I just want them to have fun.” That’s the voice of light: after all of this reflection about the world we live in, you can shut that off and escape into the music.

But isn’t there something solipsistic about shutting off, when we’ve just seen how dire things can be out in the world?

Yes, but there’s a beauty to it also. Maybe there is, you know, “the power of art” to help you find light when you’re in darkness. We see some reaction shots of the crowd, and they’re losing themselves in their love for Celeste, as if the world inside that stadium isn’t so dire. The scene’s not meant to be sarcastic, and neither is Raffey’s statement.

By anyone’s measure, Vox Lux is a dense film. Did you and Brady do much talking about big-picture stuff, subtext and whatnot?
What we spent the most time discussing was how this film occupies the space between the wars of this century. His first film, Childhood of a Leader, bridged the period between World War I and World War II. He wanted to know what conflicts could define the 21st century in the same way those defined the 20th. The war on our soil is mass shootings, and the foreign war is terror. How do we bridge the cultural gap between them using this character, is the main question that the film poses. That fascinated me. You don’t often get to think about film with this framing.

Source: Vulture

As an actress, Natalie Portman has never been short of audaciousness, from her breakthrough role aged 12 as a precocious assassin in Léon: The Professional, to the role that won her the Oscar, as a masochistic ballerina in Black Swan, to her turn as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. She builds on this repertoire of complex protagonists with Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux, in which she plays Celeste, the survivor of a brutal school shooting who becomes a pop superstar after she writes and records a heartfelt anthem for the victims. The film is a commentary on the loss of innocence, set against the backdrop of our nation’s tragic gun culture and obsession with celebrity.

Did you know Brady Corbet before this project? Were you looking to do a musically-themed movie?

I watched his film [The Childhood of a Leader] and was really impressed by his work. His writing [in Vox Lux] was so specific and great. I would say the words as I was reading the screenplay; both the form of how Celeste says words and how she speaks in a specific manner. And she’s monologuing all the time. The content that she’s saying; she’s an incredible character and sometimes says nonsense, and sometimes says really insightful things all mixed together. It was a childhood dream come true to get to sing, like singing with a brush in front of the mirror, but I wouldn’t categorize this movie as a musical.

How does the PTSD from the school shooting impact her as she gets older?

It definitely affects her. Whenever we go through devastation, it haunts us, but she picks herself up. Because she had the experience, it becomes like a common occurrence, and people learn to live with the most extraordinary circumstances.

Production was delayed due to financing dropping out. How did that time off further assist in your preparation?

I was on my way to the airport to fly to New York when they called me, and I turned around and went back home. I had prepped everything, but had to prep again and I worked on the accent. In preparing the choreography we had three or four weeks with Benjamin [Millepied]. He was working with his company at the same time. He’d teach me and then I’d rehearse with movement trainer Raquel Horsford. I also did five or six recording sessions.

What rock musical documentaries did you watch in preparing to play Celeste?

I watched all the top ones, but I don’t really feel that she’s based on a particular person at all. I learned a lot about the lifestyle of what they’re doing, the rigor of being on the road, the taxing shows night after night, all the work and preparation, the dynamic relationship between all of the people a pop star travels, lives and works with; the family members and how they fit in. Sometimes they work for the pop star. Having difficult relationships with siblings seemed to be a recurring theme. I picked up on all their small behavior.

Being politically active, how did you feel after the midterm elections?

I feel excited about the many types of people who are representing more of what America looks like. The typical make-up of our government is slowly looking more like the make-up of our country. [Editor’s note: In an election record, 101 women won seats in the U.S. House of Representatives including such landmarks with the first female Muslims, Native American and youngest candidate being elected.]

Being an active member of Time’s Up, do you find that there’s any resistance from the industry in the campaign for inclusion riders on productions?

There is a resistance because I think a lot of people are making the argument that you’re hiring someone for their talent, not for their gender. Of course, I don’t think that anyone thinks the argument should ignore bias. There’s the great orchestra example which started a few years ago. The top orchestras were entirely male and what they started doing were auditions behind a curtain to judge the listening of the music. Suddenly there was a 50/50 parity in the make-up of their orchestras. They didn’t realize the unconscious bias against women. Most industries can’t do job interviews behind a curtain. It goes to show that we have so much bias in not recognizing talent and allowing it to express itself. Of course, no one wants to get a job because of their marginalization, you want to get the job because of your talent. But there are so many who don’t get the opportunity since they are marginalized, and there are those who actually appreciate others’ values, talent and voices.

Roles for women—have they improved since you first began in this business?

I think it’s still really challenging, there’s a lot of tropes that are repeated and revisited. Also for women of color, it’s extremely difficult to be represented. However, this year, we saw the first Asian-American female story to be told by a studio in 25 years [Crazy Rich Asians]. Latinos are even more poorly represented; that is something people aren’t being shown at all. But white women are the most represented of all the women and it’s a challenging thing to show a full humanity. So, I think there’s a lot to be done when it comes to giving more opportunities to other people, and allowing people from all types of experiences to tell their stories.

You have increasingly become more involved as a producer on the projects you star in. What do you love about that part of the job, and does it help to have a voice in productions when they become challenged, as was the case on Jane Got a Gun?

It’s nice to be a part of projects I believe in and can help shepherd, even if I’m not the director or writer. I’m still learning and I’m not one to claim something when I have so much to learn. With Jane Got a Gun, that started with a lot of genuine interest in the creative process, and turned into a harrowing experience for everyone involved. I don’t look at that as any sort of victory. It was very challenging and humbling, an experience where you learn how much you can be better and how much you still have to learn.

Will you direct again?

Yes, but I’m not sure what.

Has there ever been any talk of doing a sequel to your first breakout film Léon: The Professional, where we see a much older Mathilda?

There was a little bit of talk about that at one point, but I don’t have any plans to do that project.

Source: Deadline

Natalie Portman is optimistic about the growing number of women in elected positions, but she knows change in Hollywood won’t come as swiftly as it did in congress. Portman is a founding member of Time’s Up, the anti-harassment initiative formed as a response to #MeToo and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. In response to a question about whether people in Hollywood are embracing inclusion riders — a contractual obligation that ensures film and TV productions hire more women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities — Portman told Deadline there is still resistance to the idea.

“There is a resistance because I think a lot of people are making the argument that you’re hiring someone for their talent, not for their gender,” said Portman, citing an example that top orchestras used to be all-male until some began a blind audition process, which naturally created 50/50 gender parity. “It goes to show that we have so much bias in not recognizing talent and allowing it to express itself.”

The concept for inclusion riders was first created by the prolific Dr. Stacy L. Smith at USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, though very few people knew what it was was until Frances McDormand forcefully called for its use during her Best Actress acceptance speech at the 2018 Academy Awards. Since then, Time’s Up has embraced the idea as part of its advocacy work.

In September, Warner Bros. became the first major studio to implement a company-wide inclusion policy, partnering with actor and producer Michael B. Jordan to increase diversity and inclusivity in front of and behind the camera. (Its parent company, WarnerMedia, also owns Turner and HBO).

“Of course, no one wants to get a job because of their marginalization, you want to get the job because of your talent,” said Portman. “But there are so many who don’t get the opportunity since they are marginalized, and there are those who actually appreciate others’ values, talent, and voices.”

In her newest movie, Brady Corbet’s “Vox Lux,” Portman plays a difficult rock star named Celeste, a Lady Gaga-esque figure who is haunted by a tragic event from her past.

When asked if she’s noticed an improvement in the quality of roles for women, Portman said, “it’s still really challenging, there’s a lot of tropes that are repeated and revisited. Also for women of color, it’s extremely difficult to be represented.” She noted recent milestones like “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first studio movie centered on an Asian-American woman in 25 years, but added that Latinx stories are still grossly underrepresented.

Portman added, “There’s a lot to be done when it comes to giving more opportunities to other people, and allowing people from all types of experiences to tell their stories.”

Source: Indiewire

Oscar winner Natalie Portman sits down on TODAY to talk about her new movie, “Vox Lux,” in which she stars as a troubled pop diva who survived a tragedy.

Director Brady Corbet‘s Vox Lux is like the warped, nasty sibling of A Star Is Born. The film starts, quite literally, with a bang, when teenager Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is the sole survivor of a school shooting. Footage of Celeste singing at a memorial service sweeps the nation, blasting the young girl into the pop-star stratosphere thanks to Jude Law‘s savvy talent manager. Flash-forward a decade or two and Celeste—now played by Natalie Portman, going all out for this role—is a Gaga-esque superstar, but the years in-between have sharpened her naive edges into something much more tragic. Vox Lux has been pretty divisive among critics, but I really dug it; like Celeste herself, the film is a wicked piece of work, but you have to admire its ambition.

Before Vox Lux‘s debut, I sat down with Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy to discuss the film. Check out what they had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about.

Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy:

  • Their thoughts while reading the script’s jarring opening for the first time.
  • How the film uses a lot of long takes where the camera is following the performers from behind.
  • Their perspective on the film’s line about pop music: “I don’t want people to have to think too much, I just want them to feel good.”
  • Why the film makes a point several times to show that Celeste has lost her hotel room key.
  • Balancing complex dance choreography with staying in character.
  • VOX LUX, A 20th Century Portrait, begins in 1999 when teenage Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a violent tragedy. After singing at a memorial service, Celeste transforms into a burgeoning pop star with the help of her songwriter sister (Stacy Martin) and talent manager (Jude Law). Celeste’s meteoric rise to fame dovetails with a personal and national loss of innocence, consequently elevating the young powerhouse to a new kind of celebrity: American icon, secular deity, global superstar.

    By 2017, adult Celeste (Natalie Portman) is mounting a comeback after a scandalous incident almost derailed her career. Touring in support of her sixth album, a compendium of sci-fi anthems entitled, “Vox Lux,” the indomitable, foul-mouthed pop savior must overcome her personal and familial struggles to navigate motherhood, madness and monolithic fame.

    Featuring original songs by Sia, an original score by Scott Walker and a transcendent performance by Natalie Portman – VOX LUX personifies the cult of celebrity and pummels the zeitgeist, it’s an original story about the forces that shape us, as individuals and nations.”

    Source: Collider

    Natalie Portman in Vox Lux

    “The Childhood of a Leader” director Brady Corbet’s sophomore effort behind the camera, “Vox Lux,” is a stunning piece of cinema. This hypnotic and impressive drama will shock audiences with its prologue, a horrific scene involving a school shooting that sets the story in motion, and it will also bewitch or bewilder viewers with star Natalie Portman’s phenomenal performance, most notably during a concert sequence that comprises the film’s finale. In between, there are plenty of ideas — arguably too many — for folks to chew over and digest.

    Act 1 of the film, entitled “Genesis,” takes place in 2000-2001 when Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a school shooting and is inspired to write and perform a song at a vigil. Her anthem about anger, violence and grief becomes a hit and she is soon courting a record deal. A mature teenager, she hires a manager (Jude Law), works with the label’s publicist (Jennifer Ehle), and takes dance cues from a choreographer before heading to Stockholm for a performance. This all happens relatively quickly, as Corbet, who employs a handheld camera and speed-motion photography, captures the urgency of the action and the passage of time.

    But even as narrator Willem Dafoe explains Celeste’s devotion to God, music, and her sister Eleanor (Stacy Martin), there seems to be something else at work here. And therein lies the fascinating subtext of “Vox Lux” — it’s a satire and a cautionary tale told in reverse. The film is certainly being ironic when Celeste states, “I don’t want people to think too hard. I just want them to feel good.” Corbet’s film, about the loss of innocence, is neither breezy nor upbeat. It’s a dense, intense film that mirrors Celeste’s never-ending dream of speeding through a tunnel. It throws viewers into a suspended state, a limbo where one is not always sure of what is being shown, but it is impossible to look away. That’s what makes it great.
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    Act 2 of the film, “Regenesis,” takes place in 2017, and opens with a shooting on a Croatian beach. The terrorists wear masks like the one Celeste wore during a video she made back in her teens. Now, Celeste is 31 years old and played by Natalie Portman. (In a canny bit of casting, Raffey Cassidy, who played Celeste in Act 1, plays Celeste’s daughter Albertine in Act 2; Stacy Martin plays Eleanor, Celeste’s sister, in both acts).

    Portman arrives in the film like a force of nature, tearing into her role with reckless abandon. Portman is so much fun to watch behaving badly that viewers may actually root for her to self-destruct; she is that entertaining. Her Celeste is a motormouth, as seen in a hilarious lunch scene with her daughter in a New York diner where she rants about Eleanor and begs the counter staff to serve her a decent glass wine in a to-go cup. She gets into a fight with the manager who simply wants a photo. The scene shows how quickly the once-mature Celeste had devolved into an entitled egoist, and Portman delights in making a dramatic exit. (She gets another opportunity in her hotel after a fight with her sister.)

    However, Portman never makes Celeste a camp figure, despite her character’s silly hair, makeup, and costumes (all of which are appropriate). She plays her press conference scenes like a performance — giving folks the “show” she thinks they want (or expect) from her — by saying reprehensible or incomprehensible things. Celeste, once meant to be a symbol of strength and resilience, now comes across as unconstrained and unbearable. This may be why she is beloved by fans, but not by anyone who knows her.

    Corbet deliberately lets viewers connect the dots and determine what to think about Celeste, her politics and celebrity. The film, which is elliptical at times, also can go over-the-top, but his approach challenges and provokes the audience. There are themes of rebirth, discussions about morality, manifestos of radical nihilism, and ideas about coping with trauma, both individually and collectively, that resonate. But Corbet never insults viewers or holds their hand. A scene late in the film — where Celeste, having consumed copious amounts of drugs before her concert, insists on stopping the car and heading out on to a beach to have a moment of silence — may be earnest, or it may be sardonic; viewers will have to decide for themselves.

    Moreover, the film’s big finish, an extended concert sequence featuring Celeste, is an absolutely wondrous. Portman gives it her all, gyrating around the stage in a slinky, too tight sparkly bodysuit while expressively singing lyrics like “I’m a private girl in a public world.” (The vapid songs — which are perfectly chosen — are by SIA, and the thumping beat is likely designed to bludgeon viewers). There is a tension as to whether the trainwreck of a celebrity that is Celeste will make it to, or through, her performance. But such is the magic of this spellbinding film; viewers come to care about Celeste, despite her being such a despicable person. Part of that is Portman’s edgy performance, but it is also Corbet’s remarkable achievement.

    Source: Salon