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Portman, Natalie (1981–)

Portman, Natalie

Natalie Portman (born Natalie Hershlag) is world famous, Academy Award-nominated Israeli American film actress, and one of the most soughtafter actresses in Hollywood in the early twenty-first century.


Natalie Portman was born on 8 June 1981 in Jerusalem, Israel. She uses her grandmother's maiden name, Portman, as her professional name to protect her privacy. Her father, Avner Hershlag, is an Israeli physician and medical researcher. Her mother, Shelley Stevens, is an American homemaker. The family moved to the United States when Natalie was three years old. They lived in Maryland, Connecticut, and, starting in 1990, on Long Island in New York. A major Hollywood actress, Portman said in Rolling Stone that although she loves the United States and lives there, "my heart's in Jerusalem … that's where I feel at home."

At age eleven, she was discovered by a modeling scout at a pizza parlor in New York state, but she was not interested in modeling. She decided to go into acting after spending three summers at the Stagedoor Manor Performing Camp. Still, coming from a well-educated family, Portman always insisted that she wanted to go to college, even after she began acting. When she began attending Harvard University in 1999 she gave up all acting jobs except the Star Wars trilogy to which she was committed, and she graduated from school early in 2003. Portman returned to acting thereafter, although she did pursue graduate coursework in Israel in 2004 when filming in her home country.


Portman grew up in a well-traveled, well-cultured family, and her parents also pushed her to succeed. She began dancing when she was four years old, eventually training in jazz, tap, and ballet. Portman's first film was Léon (or The Professional; 1994). She was twelve years old at the time. The following year she appeared in Heat along with Hollywood heavy hitters Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. In 1996 she acted in The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway, earning a Tony Award nomination in the process. The film that rocketed her to fame was the blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace in 1999. She later acted in the two follow-up Star Wars films.

The early twenty-first century saw Portman rise to global superstar status. In 2000 she starred in Where the Heart Is along with Ashley Judd. Portman appeared with an all-star cast in the 2003 American civil war drama Cold Mountain. Her performance in the 2004 film Closer earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2006 V for Vendetta was released, in which she played the female lead. By mid-2007, she had performed in twenty-two films, including 2006's Free Zone, directed by fellow Israeli Amos Gitai.

Portman also has been involved in a variety of off-camera issues and causes. She worked on behalf of Democratic Party presidential candidate John Kerry's 2004 electoral campaign. She cochairs the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA International), which provides small-scale loans to women in developing countries.


Name: Natalie Portman (born Natalie Hershlag)

Birth: 1981, Jerusalem, Israel

Family: Single

Nationality: Israeli, American

Education: B.A. (psychology), Harvard University, 2003. Graduate work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2004


  • 1994: Appears in her first film, Léon (also known as The Professional)
  • 1995: Appears in Heat
  • 1996: Earns Tony Award nomination for Broadway performance of The Diary of Anne Frank
  • 1999: Release of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
  • 2004: Earns Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for Closer
  • 2006: Appears in V for Vendetta and Free Zone


Portman's work has been well received internationally, and she already has accumulated awards as testament. In 1996, her Broadway performance off camera in The Diary of Anne Frank earned her a Tony Award nomination. Her performance in the 2004 film Closer earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.


Natalie Portman is entering her prime as an actress, so it remains to be seen how she will make her mark on the film industry.


Heath, Chris. "The Private Life of Natalie Portman." Rolling Stone (June 2002). Available from

Levy, Ariel. "Natalie Portman Will Change Your Life." Blender. (November 2005). Available from

Natalie Portman's official Web site. Available from

                                          Michael R. Fischbach

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