Category: Press

Press/Video: Natalie Portman stars in Sia-scored pop star fable Vox Lux, as a diva derailed by fame

Press/Video: Natalie Portman stars in Sia-scored pop star fable Vox Lux, as a diva derailed by fame

What is the price of success? This age-old question is one of the themes in this grandiose and portentous pop star fable starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law.

Written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet, whose debut The Childhood of a Leader was a sinister period nightmare awarded best director and best first feature at Venice in 2015, Vox Lux bears some resemblance to Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born — although twice as ambitious.

Cooper, after all, was not trying to talk about modern-day terrorism and the death throes of Western consumerism — just the loneliness of life at the top.

Corbet’s film is altogether more far-reaching.

While Childhood of a Leader was about characters bearing witness to some of the most disastrous moments of the early 20th century, Vox Lux is the same idea applied to our own era.

It begins with a “Prologue” title card, accompanied by ominous strings and Willem Dafoe’s voice-over introducing the protagonist, who we see in pastel home-video footage as a girl performing in a lounge room with a Christmas tree.

This is Celeste, and you’re made to understand trouble awaits her.

Corbet propels us next into a high school massacre — with jarring edits and unflinching violence — after which 14-year-old Celeste ends up with a bullet in her spine.

It’s the kind of shocking opening — misanthropic and coolly distant — that reminds you of a 21st-century Lars Von Trier (Dafoe’s narration underscores the impression).

Two more title cards, sectioning the film with biblical self-importance, “Genesis” and “Regenesis”, further cement this comparison.

The doe-eyed, pale-skinned Raffey Cassidy (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) plays Celeste in the first act, set in the late 1990s. She’s a suburban girl with a beautiful voice who’s catapulted to fame after a song she writes about the shooting with her sister (Stacy Martin) becomes a national hit, channelling the nation’s grief.

Jude Law plays her manager, the best character in the film, transforming from a strictly-business chaperone in the first half to an altogether more blurry manager/confidante in the second.

As an adult Celeste is played by Portman, an otherworldly beauty whose glamour is offset by a bratty, almost Jersey Shore vulgarity. In this section Cassidy plays her disaffected teen daughter.

Told with the right psychological nuance, this has the makings of quite a film.

But it’s clear Corbet has more on his mind than Celeste’s personal woes alone, and he pivots the story on the 9/11 attacks, whose aftershocks ricochet through his protagonist’s life in obviously symbolic ways.

Celeste goes from a fresh-faced teenager who’s a lightning rod for national pain, to a woman with a resentful streak, widely regarded with suspicion by the once-adoring public.

It’s a strange meld of macro and micro storytelling, in which Corbet is interrogating the act of myth-making — and how the news cycle turns on its heroes — while also asking questions about how America changed in the wake of 9/11.

He throws a tabloid scandal and another terrorist attack into the mix. Suddenly, Celeste has a PR crisis on her hands.

“I used to be treated like I was a hero,” complains Portman, with a similar anguish to her psychologically imploding ballet dancer in Black Swan.

On the eve of her character’s comeback tour for her new album, events conspire to derail her.

If you’re not quite sure what the film is saying, rest assured there are song lyrics to tell you. “I’m a private girl in a public world,” Celeste sings during the movie’s dreadfully shot concert finale (apparently real-life pop star Sia wrote material for the soundtrack, so not sure how this clanger made it through).

It’s a pity Corbet couldn’t dramatise this story of trauma and fame’s double-edged sword with more subtlety.

Portman, who gets an executive producer credit along with Law, is not the most multifaceted performer, and her part has been written in a way that’s mostly reactive, with not a lot to signal what’s going on beneath the surface. Corbet pushes some of Celeste’s most interesting dramas off screen, to be recounted in Dafoe’s gravelly narration, and we are left to fill in the gaps in her relationships with her family, manager and fans.

What does play out on screen is an interesting but never remarkable backstage drama in which Celeste and her manager try to manage family rifts, grapple with the media, get high and stagger to the gig.

The film’s central reference to 9/11 — and Celeste’s role as a symbol of American victimhood and exceptionalism — remains frustratingly underdeveloped, and sometimes banal.

Corbet’s film lacks the poetry or breathing space to make his statement more eloquently (a far superior film about consumerism, terrorism and youth culture is Nocturama, on Netflix). By the time his heroine is belting out her third-rate songs in a sequined jumpsuit, you can’t help but wish you’d stayed home.

Vox Lux is in cinemas from February 21.

Source: ABC News

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Press: ‘Pop stars are just so much more famous than actors’: Vox Lux star Natalie Portman

Press: ‘Pop stars are just so much more famous than actors’: Vox Lux star Natalie Portman

“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

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Press/Podcast: Natalie Portman Almost Never Books Jobs Through Auditions

“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

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Press: Keri Langerman Creates Her Own Pop Star For ‘Vox Lux,’ Sourcing Vegan-Friendly Fashions For Natalie Portman

Press: Keri Langerman Creates Her Own Pop Star For ‘Vox Lux,’ Sourcing Vegan-Friendly Fashions For Natalie Portman

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

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Press: Natalie Portman lets out her inner bad girl in ‘Vox Lux’

Press: Natalie Portman lets out her inner bad girl in ‘Vox Lux’

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

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