Natalie Portman has admitted that her performance in George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels was poorly-received – and temporarily damaged her career.
The actress played Queen Padmé Amidala in 1999’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace and reprised the role for Lucas’s subsequent films in the prequel trilogy, 2002’s Episode II: Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In 2001, Portman trod the boards in a Broadway revival of Chekhov’s The Seagull directed by Mike Nichols, and the actress has now thanked the late director, who passed away in November, for helping to revive her career.
“Star Wars had come out around the time of Seagull, and everyone thought I was a horrible actress,” Portman recalled in an interview with New York magazine. “I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me. Mike wrote a letter to [fellow director] Anthony Minghella and said, ‘Put her in Cold Mountain, I vouch for her.’ And then Anthony passed me on to [another director] Tom Tykwer, who passed me on to the Wachowskis.”
The actress continued: “I worked with [Czech director] Milos Forman a few years later. He said, ‘Mike saved me. He wrote a letter so that I could get asylum in the US’. He did that for 50 people, and it doesn’t make any one of us feel less special.”
Portman would go on to earn a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in 2004’s Closer, which was directed by Nichols, and then take home the Best Actress prize six years later for her depiction of a disturbed ballet dancer in Black Swan. Like her fellow stars in the Star Wars prequels, Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson, she will not be returning for next year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is being directed by JJ Abrams.