Natalie Portman reveals Weinstein saga made her realize she has ‘a hundred stories’ of sexual misconduct
Given what a successful career she's had as an adult, it's easy to forget sometimes that Natalie Portman has been in the movie business since she was a child, one of the few who made the transition from child actor to respected member of the field unscathed. Her first film role was in Leon when she was only 14 years old, so it's fair to say she has plenty of experience with the industry.
Following the myriad tales of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault related to the likes of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and others in the industry, many women have been opening up about traumatic experiences. Portman said that since these scandals have taken over the news cycle, she has been inspired to think about her own experience with harassment.
"When I heard everything coming out, I was like, wow, I’m so lucky that I haven’t had this," she said at Vulture Festival this week. "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." She continued:
“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.”
She then recalled a time when she was invited on a plane with a producer when she was young, only to find that he had prepared a bed for them. "Nothing happened. I was not assaulted. I said, 'This doesn’t make me comfortable' and that was respected but was super not OK. That was really unacceptable and manipulative. I was scared."
"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].”
She also discussed how she feels on set, where she often finds herself "the only woman on set":
“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."
"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.”
Portman then discussed how this sense of isolation can help to suppress women from speaking out about any sexual misconduct in the workplace, as they don't give women working together opportunity to share stories. She points out that many of the accusations come from a place where "everyone was isolated from each other", adding that "it prevents mentorship of women by other women because you're just not exposed to it".
The mother-0f-two, who gave birth to a daughter earlier this year, also spoke on what sexual harassment can lead to. She questions whether women becoming understandably defensive around this behaviour can eventually lead them to close off. "What do we close off of ourselves or diminish in ourselves because we want to protect ourselves?" she asked.
While she praised many of her male directors, such as Pablo Larraín (Jackie), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), and Mike Nichols (Closer), she has found in the past that directors have treated her differently. She references an unnamed director who once snapped at her : "You're exhausting":
“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.’”
It's becoming increasingly clear with each day that this isn't a problem only with specific abuses of power and how those situations were dealt with, but the underlying culture in the industry that continues to allow this to happen. Hopefully the movie business can work on these issues and improve in the future.