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Just How Old Was Natalie Portman When She Starred in the ‘Star Wars’ Prequel Trilogy?

Padmé Amidala on the cover of the Queen's Shadow Star Wars book.

The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy is probably one of the most polarising installments of its entire narrative universe—and before the devastation that was The Rise of Skywalker I would have even ventured out to say that the Prequel Trilogy was indeed the most divisive among fans. 

On the one hand, it proves the theory that a solid story can somehow still carry a movie through its acting and production gaps. On the other, oh my God were some of those gaps massive. The Prequel Trilogy is a very nicely crafted tragedy (in the Greekest of senses) that depicts a pretty much textbook “fall of the hero” trope—the scene in The Revenge of the Sith where Anakin and Padmé look at each other across Coruscant, he from the Jedi Temple he will soon destroy and she from her apartment, is hauntingly beautiful. And yet, the Jar Jar Binks’ “Uh, maxi big da Force” line still haunts me to this day. So yeah, definitely a mixed bag.

Still, the Prequel Trilogy also has the merit of having gifted us some iconic characters played by some iconic actors. Obi-Wan Kenobi is, of course, the first one that comes to mind—and the hype surrounding the very fast-approaching release of his homonymous series is further proof that we have collectively never moved past that “Hello, there.” And what is there to say about Samuel L. Jackson’s Master Mace Windu, who was so badass as to have his own unique lightsaber color?

And then there’s Natalie Portman, who stars in all three movies of the Prequel trilogy as Padmé Amidala—also known as Queen Naberrie, the ruler of the planet Naboo. While her role is definitely not exempt from criticism—Why is she! dying! of a broken heart! when there could have been! one million reasons! that would have had more sense! just why?—it’s also a pivotal one in the development of the story. And let’s not forget one of Padmé’s most iconic lines, “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause” that still gives me chills every time I think about it.

STILL SCREAMING FROM THIS (Lucasfilm)

And the thing is that Natalie was young when she played Padmé—and yes, she had already been on several movie sets as a child actor, but I think it’s safe to say that this massive saga was definitely a watershed moment in her career. But just how young was she?

The Phantom Menace, the first movie of the Trilogy, came out in 1999 — which means that Natalie Portman was around seventeen or eighteen during the filming. Not too far off from Padmé herself, who’s fourteen when she becomes a queen on the run (once her planet is blockaded by the Trade Federation) and lands on everyone’s favorite sandbox Tatooine, where she meets 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker.

An iconic look if there ever was one (Lucasfilm)

Attack of the Clones is set after a ten-year time skip. Padmé, now twenty-four, is no longer Queen Naberrie and has instead taken up a place in the Senate as Senator Amidala, where she’s once again squaring up against the Trade Federation and trying to contrast the rising tide of totalitarianism during the turmoil of the Clone Wars. This is also the movie where she and Anakin, who’s a nineteen-year-old Jedi Padawan when we meet him again at the start of Episode II, start their relationship and get married. Natalie Portman was around twenty or twenty-one years old during the filming, making her slightly younger than her character (while Hayden Christensen, who was born in the same year as Natalie Portman, was slightly older than Anakin himself).

And THAT’S when the trouble began (Lucasfilm)

Finally, there’s Episode III—one of my favorites of the entire saga—there, I said it. Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005, which means that Natalie Portman was around twenty-three or twenty-four during the production (and release) of the final installment of the Prequel Trilogy. In-universe, the Clone Wars have been raging for three years, meaning that Padmé is now twenty-seven—the oldest she’ll ever be, since she dies shortly after delivering her twins, Luke and Leia, at the dawn of the Galactic Empire (brought on by 22-year-old Anakin, now Darth Vader).

Will we see Padmé again in some form in the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, since it focuses so heavily on the consequence of the fall of the Republic and of the Jedi Order? While there is no official news—Natalie Portman was probably too busy filming Thor: Love and Thunder, where she finally picks up Mjolnir and gets to kick some ass herself—but we can always hope in some flashbacks when Obi-Wan or Darth Vader reminisce about her. We’ll just have to wait for May and see.

(image: Lucasfilm)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely still reading. She loves dragons, complex magic systems, stories about the intrinsic goodness of humanity, queer representation, women who could crush her and Mr Darcy type men. Her blood runs purple.