28 March 2011

Should Natalie Portman's Body Double Get More Recognition?

Grazia Daily has been a huge fan of Natalie Portman for yonks now – from Garden State to Closer, even as the only convincing human  in the Star Wars prequels! So despite being completely in awe of her talents, we were not the least bit surprised by her ah-may-zing Oscar winning performance in Black Swan.
 
Natalie trained with a ballet  teacher for about a year pre-filming, toning her body and perfecting her technique and also spent two months prior to shooting training with the film's choreographer Benjamin Millepied (now her fiancé and baby daddy!). With her near-skeletal frame evident throughout the movie, there’s no doubt that Natalie  threw herself wholeheartedly into the role, giving her performance genuine  authenticity.
 
So, of course, there was always going to be the  inevitable speculation as to how much of the complicated choreography was in  fact performed by Portman. Afterall, professional ballerinas train for  several years just to join a company let alone perform as a lead soloist. But  one dancer who’s more put out than most is that of Sarah Lane, Natalie’s  dancing double.

Sarah recently told Entertainment Weekly that the viewing  public had been misled as to just how much of the fancy footwork was performed  by Natalie. 'On the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie,' Lane  said. 'I mean, from a professional dancer's standpoint, she doesn't look like  a professional ballet dancer at all and she can't dance in pointe shoes. And  she can't move her body, she's very stiff.' Ouch. With the many accolades and  awards that Natalie has received for the role, it's unsurprising Sarah feels snubbed, particularly when she was only credited as ‘Hand Model’, ‘Stunt Double’ and ‘Lady in the Lane’ in the credits...

Her comments were most likely sparked in response to Millepied’s interview with the Los Angeles Times, in which he said, 'There are articles now talking about her dance double that are making it sound like (Lane) did a  lot of the work but really, she just did the footwork, and the fouettes, and  one diagonal in the studio. Honestly, 85 percent of that movie was  Natalie.'

The film's producers were quick to defend Portman, and Fox Searchlight released a statement saying, 'We were fortunate to have Sarah  there to cover the more complicated dance sequences and we have nothing but  praise for the hard work she did," the statement reads. "However, Natalie  herself did most of the dancing featured in the final  film.'

We’re all for credit where credit's due  but it seems to us that Lane has a slight case of sour grapes. Although  it may seem unfair to some, it’s unrealistic for a double of any kind to  receive the same adulation as the lead actor or actress (can anyone name  Arnie’s double in the Terminator movies?! Exactly) – the  success of a movie in part is due to the casting of well-known and well loved  performers.
 
Whether she danced 5 or 85 percent of the film, we  still think Portman did a fantastic and convincing turn as a troubled  ballerina and we can’t wait to watch it all over again when Black Swan is  released on DVD on 16 May. But tell us, what do you  think?

- Jo Oliver


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