Oscar winner Natalie Portman’s ancestry would make a feature film itself. Born Natalie Hershlag in Jerusalem she has dual citizenship in American and Israel, She has said she loves the United States but Jerusalem is where she feels at home.
Her maternal ancestors were Jewish immigrants to the USA from Austria and Russia and her paternal ancestors were Jews who moved to Israel from Poland and Romania.
Her Great Grandparents on her father’s side died at Auschwitz and her Romanian Great Grandmother was a spy for British Intelligence during World War II.
Her parents met at a Jewish student centre at Ohio State University where her mother was selling tickets. They corresponded after he returned to Israel and were married when her mother visited a few years later.
Portman was born in Jerusalem on June 9th 1981 but she was 3-years-old when the family moved to the United States of America where her father trained to be a doctor.
After living in Washington DC they moved to Connecticut and finally settled on Long Island, New York in 1960. She went to Jewish schools where she learnt to speak Hebrew and English. She has loved languages from an early age and has studied French, Japanese, German and Arabic.
Portman started taking dancing lessons at the age of 4-years-old and at the age of 10 a Revlon agent asked her to become a child model. She had already decided she wanted to become an actress and turned down the offer to concentrate on acting.
In her school holidays she attended theatre camps and at the age of 10-years-old she auditioned for the off-Broadway show “Ruthless!” a musical about a girl who was prepared to commit murder to get the lead in a school play.
Portman and Britney Spears were chosen to understudy the star Laura Bell Bundy and in 1994 she auditioned for the role of a child who befriends a middle-aged hit man in Luc Besson’s film Leon (aka The Professional) and got the part.
To protect her family’s identity she took her grandmother’s maiden name of Portman as her stage name. The film opened on November 18th 1994 when she was 13-years-old and this was followed by a short film “Developing” that was shown on television.
These two films launched her movie career and between 1995 and 1999 she appeared in a number of films. After turning down the leading role in “Anywhere But Here” because it would involve a sex scene she decided to accept the part of Ann August after director Wayne Wang and actress Susan Sarandon demanded a re-write of the script.
The film opened in late 1999 and she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role.
After playing the leading role of a teenaged mother in “Where The Heart Is” she moved into Harvard Road University to do a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Apart from the Star Wars prequels she would not accept parts for four years until she had obtained her degree.
In July 2001 she played Nina in Chekhov’s “The Seagull” at New York City’s Public Theatre, directed by Mike Nichols. Also in the cast were Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
In 2010 she played veteran ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s film “Black Swan”. Film critic Kurt Loder wrote, “Portman gives one of her most compelling performances on the film.”
To prepare for the role she trained for five to eight hours a day in ballet for six months. All the hard work paid off and she won both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Leading Actress.
On the set of “Black Swan” she met ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied who was the film’s choreographer and they announced their engagement on December 27th 2010. They are expecting their first child in the Summer 2011.
She has been criticised be US Republican politician Mike Huckabee for choosing to have a baby out of wedlock saying she is glamorising single motherhood.