Entertainment Weekly recently reported Darren Aronofsky’s statement about the body double controversy surrounding Natalie Portman and Sarah Lane. Aronofsky directed Portman in the Black Swan.
Lane, the American Ballet Theatre dancer who doubled for Portman, told EW that the Portman did only 5 percent “of the full body shots” in the film. Aronofsky defended his star by stating the following:
“Here is the reality. I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that’s 80% Natalie Portman. What about duration? The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second. There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement. Even so, if we were judging by time over 90% would be Natalie Portman.
And to be clear Natalie did dance on pointe in pointe shoes. If you look at the final shot of the opening prologue, which lasts 85 seconds, and was danced completely by Natalie, she exits the scene on pointe. That is completely her without any digital magic. I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor. Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don’t want anyone to think that’s not her they are watching. It is.”
When an actor plays a musician or an artist, the creatives behind the painting or the music are perhaps not given full credit. Even sexy butts that replace more reserved stars’ rumps in love scenes aren’t usually thanked in acceptance speeches. This is because the butt or the painting didn’t really do the acting. It’s part of the movie-making process that the talents and energies of others are used in films and actors are the face that we see. If someone plays Salvador Dali, as Johnny Depp is scheduled to do, and he acts his heart out, do we deny him credit because he didn’t actually paint on the canvases that we see in the film?
Those creative folks are given their due when credits roll and that’s all they can really expect. Although it may have been gracious to include a double’s name in an acceptance speech or give her more credit than she received, but it’s not mandatory and shouldn’t demean the accomplishments of others involved if it’s not done. It’s as if the cinematographers wanted to take credit from Portman’s screen time because they made her and the movie more beautiful. They did, but they didn’t act. Portman received an Academy Award for Best ACTRESS, not best dancer.
Portman trained for a year to become as close to a dancer as she could in that period of time. We now know the amount of screen time she put in actually dancing. But this is irrelevant when it comes to an acting award. Perhaps we admire those who take on the singing or the dancing in addition to straight acting (see Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls), but nonetheless, the acting achievement is the intent of the award.
Let Natalie enjoy her Oscar. Lane will get her due within dancing awards and reviews, as her talent will surely guarantee.