In a recent interview with Variety, Natalie Portman said she would discourage young people from being involved in Hollywood. The actor and producer has been in the public eye most of her life, having begun her career as a film actor at the age of 12, starring alongside Jean Reno in Léon: The Professional. The film has since met with controversy, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, since director Luc Besson’s wife Maïwenn has said the story of the movie, about “a 13-year-old girl in love with an older man,” was based on their relationship.
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Maïwenn and Besson met when she was 12 and he was 29, and they were married when she became pregnant at 16.
Natalie Portman has stated that she has a complicated relationship with the film because of the association it has with the subject of the sexualization of young people, herself included. It might be this experience that helps inform her discouragement of young people from becoming involved in Hollywood while they’re still children. In the interview, Portman calls it “almost an accident of luck” that she was not assaulted as a child growing up in the movie industry, indicating the frequency with which she believes this to occur.
Portman Won’t Allow Her Children To Act
Natalie Portman also credits her overprotective parents for the fact that she emerged from her life as a child actor relatively unscathed. Asked whether, as a parent herself, she would ever encourage her own children to be involved in Hollywood, she said she would not, at least while they are still young. She says she has heard too many stories about children being victimized in Hollywood to ever allow or encourage her children to participate in the movie industry during their childhood.
Changing Hollywood’s Approach
Noting that there is a great deal more awareness of and effort to combat cycles of abuse today, Natalie Portman still maintains that children should not work but rather should focus on attending school and playing. There’s of course a strong case to be made that she is right, though it does leave open the question of how stories on film can be told without child actors to play the roles of children. This indicates potential for a change in the way children are engaged in the filmmaking process, making movie sets safe spaces where children can flourish and be assured that they will not be victimized.
All this is particularly interesting in the light of Natalie Portman discussing her most recent film, May December, in which she plays an actor who is cast in the role of a woman who grabbed tabloid headlines by entering into a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old boy. The film is loosely based on the real-life story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who had a romantic relationship with her student, Vili Fualaau, whom she eventually married. Portman’s background certainly informs her performance in the film, which she also produced.
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Having dodged many of the dangers of the world of child acting herself, Natalie Portman seems to have a protective attitude toward both her own children and others who might be considering entering the film industry. In a world that is putting greater emphasis on listening to victims and creating safer spaces for children and other vulnerable people, the message that Hollywood is not a safe place for children is an important one for actors like Portman and others to be sharing publicly. We hope messages like hers will continue to encourage systemic change within the industry that will make film sets and movie studio offices safer environments for all.