Natalie Portman’s Body Double Claims Portman Only Did 5 Percent of The Full-Body Dancing in ‘Black Swan’
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2011 by David Chen
One of the most impressive elements about Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance. Not only does Portman grippingly capture the mental disintegration of her character, she also trained for months to be able to convincingly take on the role of a star ballerina. A body double for Portman was used for some scenes, but in a recent LA Times piece, Black Swan choreographer and future Portman husband Benjamin Millepied responded to the body double scuttlebutt by claiming that “85% of that movie is Natalie.”
Portman’s body double, Sarah Lane, has now publicly refuted those claims, saying that Portman’s work only accounts for 5 percent of what you see in the full-body dance scenes in Black Swan.
Lane made these claims to Entertainment Weekly, explaining that attempts were made to cover up the true extent of her involvement in the film. According to Lane, she was pressured by Black Swan producer Ari Handel not to discuss how much of the dancing she really did:
They wanted to create this idea in people’s minds that Natalie was some kind of prodigy or so gifted in dance and really worked so hard to make herself a ballerina in a year and a half for the movie, basically because of the Oscar…It is demeaning to the profession and not just to me. I’ve been doing this for 22 years…. Can you become a concert pianist in a year and a half, even if you’re a movie star?
Lane claims that “Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie…All the other shots are me,” and that “The shots that are just her face with arms, those shots are definitely Natalie. But that doesn’t show the actual dancing.” Black Swan fans got clues about how much of Lane’s work actually made it into the final film when a special effects demo reel was released last month, showing several scenes from the movie in which Portman’s head was digitally painted onto Lane’s.
If Lane’s allegations are true, it’s a fascinating look at how Oscar/marketing campaigns are conceived and executed. I’d argue that the idea that Portman did most of the dancing in the film was instrumental to her popularity going into the Oscar race. Everyone loves rooting for the hard-working underdog, especially when your underdog is starring in a $12 million film and trained for months just to play the part.
All that being said, it does strike me as kind of a dick move on Lane’s part to “out” Portman in this way. I’m fully in support of artists receiving due credit for their hard work — especially those that don’t usually get accolades; I do, after all, host a podcast featuring a character actor — but isn’t being a body double sort of like being a ghost writer (i.e. a profession in which it’s in poor taste to publicly claim credit for your work)? According to Lane, “I know that it’s not a personal thing against me. I know that it’s just a political thing. It’s just unfortunate that I kind of lost credit.”
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