Toronto: Natalie Portman Discusses Directing and Inspirations

By Tran, Jeanie | Screen International, September 10, 2015 | Go to article overview

Toronto: Natalie Portman Discusses Directing and Inspirations


Tran, Jeanie, Screen International


To kick offits 40th year, the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept 10-20) hosted a soirée celebration at Reitman Square, during which artistic director Cameron Bailey had an in-depth conversation with guest of honour Natalie Portman about her life and career.

The Academy Award winner is in Toronto for the North American premiere of her feature debut as a writer-director, A Tale Of Love And Darkness.

After reading Amos Oz's autobiographical book of the same name - about his upbringing in Israel and having to bear witness to his mother's declining mental state - Portman was inspired to make the transition from actor to director.

"I had been thinking about making it for a really long time," she told Bailey. "I read the book [originally published in Hebrew] when it came up in translation in the US in 2004, and it was the first time that I could see a movie in my head ... It was so vivid for me."

Israel "familial"

Portman said that Israel, where she was born, was the ideal place to carry out her first directing job because it felt "familial".

She also considered Israel a great place to work as a female director.

"The young generation is, I think, more female than male, and women hold leadership positions everywhere," Portman told Bailey.

"Women are bossy there so there was no situation where I would ever feel like people weren't listening to me. They were all really amazing."

Mike Nichols influence

Portman said she felt "lucky" to have had an opportunity to show the film, during the post-production phase, to the late Mike Nichols, who directed the actress in Closer (2004).

Portman cited Nichols as an important figure in her life, both as a personal confidante and a mentor, and credits him for having influenced her directorial style.

"I stole all the things I learned from him, and I remember him everyday," Portman said.

She recalled that rather than having his actors rehearse scenes over and over again, Nichols would have them partake in "naming moments". …

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