Thursday, May 6, 2010
Natalie Portman - Israeli actress
Natalie Portman (Hebrew: נטלי פורטמן, born Natalie Hershlag; June 9, 1981) is an Israeli-American actress. Her first role came in the 1994 independent film Léon (known in the United States as The Professional). She achieved wider fame after playing Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Portman, who has said "I'd rather be smart than a movie star," completed a bachelor's degree in psychology at Harvard College while she was working on the Star Wars films.
In 2001, Portman opened in New York City's Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, alongside Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In 2005, Portman received a Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actress in the drama Closer. In May 2008, she served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury. Portman's directorial debut, Eve, opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival's shorts competition in 2008.
Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her father, Avner Hershlag, is an Israeli doctor specializing in fertility and reproduction (reproductive endocrinology). Her mother, Shelley Stevens, is an American homemaker who now works as her agent. Portman's maternal ancestors were Jews from Austria and Russia, and her paternal ancestors were Jews who immigrated to Israel from Poland and Romania. Her paternal grandfather's parents died in Auschwitz, and her Romanian-born great-grandmother was a spy for the British during World War II.
Although she says her family was not religious, Portman attended a Jewish elementary school, the Solomon Schechter Day School of Glen Cove, New York. She graduated from a public high school, Syosset High School. Portman skipped the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I so she could study for her high school final exams.
In June 2003, Portman graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in psychology. At Harvard, Portman was Alan Dershowitz's research assistant (he thanks her in The Case for Israel) in a psychology lab. While attending Harvard, she was a resident of Lowell House and wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson in response to an anti-Israeli essay.
Portman took graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the spring of 2004. In March 2006, she appeared as a guest lecturer at a Columbia University course in terrorism and counterterrorism, where she spoke about her film V for Vendetta.
In addition to being bilingual in Hebrew and English, Portman has studied French, Japanese, German, and Arabic.
As a student, Portman co-authored two research papers that were published in professional scientific journals. Her 1998 high school paper, "A Simple Method To Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar," was entered in the Intel Science Talent Search. In 2002, she contributed to a study on memory called "Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence" during her psychology studies at Harvard.