As part of a pre-Annihilation interview with Kate Aurthur at BuzzFeed News, Natalie Portman recently addressed her activism in the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, and how she came to a feminist awakening.
As part of that discussion, she addressed some of her past mistakes—most notably, signing the 2009 petition in support of director Roman Polanski, after he was arrested in Switzerland and faced possible extradition to the United States. “I very much regret it,” Portman said. “I take responsibility for not thinking about it enough. Someone I respected gave it to me, and said, ‘I signed this, will you too?’ And I was like, sure. It was a mistake. The thing I feel like I gained from it is empathy towards people who have made mistakes. We lived in a different world, and that doesn’t excuse anything. But you can have your eyes opened and completely change the way you want to live. My eyes were not open.”
Having had her eyes thus opened, she’s famously called out the Golden Globes “all-male nominees” for Best Director and voiced her support for Dylan Farrow, who has accused her father Woody Allen of molesting her as a child. She has also worked closely with the #TimesUp initiative.
However, one place where Portman has arguably failed in her activism is in the casting for Annihilation, based on the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Portman was cast as a character who is revealed, in the second book of the series, to be half-Asian. Portman herself only found out about the whitewashing in an interview, after the movie had already been shot, and said she felt “terrible” about the decision.
“There’s a very big problem of representation in Hollywood, and I have very strong feelings about it,” she told BuzzFeed, when asked about the issue. “There’s much fewer women onscreen than men, and this movie has so many and I feel so proud of it. And particularly women of color are not seen onscreen — and this movie also has wonderful representations of women of color as well! I feel very strongly about the issue, and there just needs to be more representation, and I would hate to be part of that problem. We based it on the first book, which does not mention race at all.”
When Aurthur asked Portman if she thought Woody Allen’s career might finally be “over,” Portman argued that this isn’t the important question. “There’s so much art that’s being lost by not giving opportunities to women and people of color,” Portman said. “Let’s not talk about what man’s career is over. Let’s talk about the vast art trove we’ve lost by not giving women, people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community opportunities — let’s talk about that loss for all of us in art. Let’s talk about that huge hole in our culture. I don’t want talk about isn’t it sad that this person who’s made 500 movies can’t make movies anymore? That’s not for me to decide. And it’s also not what I’m upset about.”
(via BuzzFeed News; image: Marvel Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios)
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