Natalie Portman has discussed her experiences of misconduct in the movie industry, saying that she has suffered “discrimination or harassment on almost everything I’ve ever worked on”.
Portman was speaking at the Vulture Festival in Los Angeles on Sunday (November 20) where she said: “When I heard everything coming out, I was like, ‘wow, I’m so lucky that I haven’t had this’. And then, on reflection, I was like, ‘okay, definitely never been assaulted, definitely not, but I’ve had discrimination or harassment on almost everything I’ve ever worked on in some way’. I went from thinking I don’t have a story to thinking, ‘Oh wait, I have 100 stories’. And I think a lot of people are having these reckonings with themselves, of things that we just took for granted as like, this is part of the process.”
The star went on to recall how one producer once invited to fly with him on his private plane. “I showed up and it was just the two of us, and one bed was made on the plane. Nothing happened, I was not assaulted. I said: ‘This doesn’t make me feel comfortable,’ and that was respected. But that was super not okay, you know? That was really unacceptable and manipulative and could have been — I was scared, you know? But just the fact of any woman, if you’re walking down the street alone at night, you feel scared, and I’m not sure guys know what that [feels like].”
Recalling how she was once described as “exhausting” by a male director, Portman added: “I was like, ‘I’m exhausting for telling you my opinion about my job?’ And it was completely different with male actors next to me in the same room. To the point where one of the male actors I was working with stood up for me in that meeting, because he said, ‘You know, you’re completely not listening to her and you’re completely listening to me and we’re saying almost the same thing.'”
Portman also spoke out against how child stars are sexualised and objectified, saying: “There was definitely a period where I was reluctant to do any kind of kissing scenes, sexual scenes. Because [for] my first roles, the reaction people would [give] in reviews [was to] call me a Lolita and things like that, and I got so scared by it. And I think that’s also got to be part of our conversation now: When you’re defensive as a woman against being looked at that way, that you’re like, ‘I don’t want to’ — what do we close off of ourselves or diminish in ourselves because we want to protect ourselves?”
“Usually you walk into a movie as the only woman, and you’re often the only woman on set. It’s very rare to have female crew members apart from hair, makeup, and wardrobe — the very stereotypical departments for women to be in — and I think women experience this in a lot of industries,” she added. “If you do get the opportunity to work, you’re often the only woman in the room. I hear this from friends of mine who are lawyers, business people, writers on shows.”
“The surprising thing is it almost feels strategic to keep you away from other women, because you don’t have the opportunity to share stories. All these accusations are like, ‘Oh yeah, everyone was isolated from each other,’ people didn’t share. They didn’t realise that there were hundreds of people with similar stories. It prevents mentorship of women by other women because you’re just not exposed to it. You have to work hard to find and actually connect to people doing the same thing because we’re often that one seat at the table.”
Earlier this year, Portman spoke about about the gender pay gap in Hollywood, saying: “We get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy”.