Sarah Lane: Does Natalie Portman’s body-double have a point?

This is Natalie Portman for sure. We think.

It’s the slow days of early spring in Hollywood, with awards season over and summer blockbusters interminable months away, everybody’s just looking for something to talk about. Behold, then, a something: we’ve apparently got a Black Swan-dal! (Truly very sorry for that one.)

Natalie Portman’s body double in last year’s "Black Swan" is speaking up, saying that she’s been the victim of a narrative that understates her contribution to the film in order to prop up a Natalie Portman, the film’s Oscar-winning star. Sarah Lane, of the American Ballet Company, tells Entertainment Weekly that she’s been the victim of a ‘cover-up.’

At issue is how much of the film’s dancing Lane was responsible for; Benjamin Millepied, the film’s choreographer (and Portman’s fiance) told the L.A. Times last week only 15% of the dance scenes were Lane, while Lane estimates that 95% of the film’s full-body ballet shots are her:

“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."

In order to maintain the narrative, Lane says, the film’s producers also told her to stop doing interviews during the run-up to the Oscars, and wiped away a PR reel that showed Portman’s face digitally replacing her own.

When it comes down to judging (everyone’s favorite part!), this is a fight where both sides lose, a little. For one thing, they seem to be talking past each other: Millepied says Portman did most of the film’s ballet full-stop, Lane says she did that vast majority of the ‘complicated’ dancing.

On the larger issues, Lane does deserve more credit than she seems to be getting from the "Black Swan" team, who seem to be pushing the narrative Portman’s precociousness a little too hard. But despite all Lane’s protestations that she thinks Portman’s an amazing actress and she’s not just out to promote herself, there’s something a little unseemly about her argument. How often do stunt doubles, or body doubles — or anyone else in Hollywood who does anonymous yeoman’s work — come out in public to ask for more credit? Until it turns out Portman used an acting double, we’re not sure how this takes anything away from her Oscar win.


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