The Look for Less

The Look for Less 2015

The Phantom Menace was a phantom movie: a huge hit least loved by its audience. Portman is surprisingly frank about her contribution. “I don’t think I was very good,” she says, frowning. “I don’t want to make any excuses for myself at all, because I’m not proud of my work in that film, but I was really miserable while I was making it.” The wet London summer was one extended thunderstorm. At 16, Portman was alone, with just her mother and the adult crew. “I mean, I love my mom to death, but I needed a friend, and I didn’t have anyone around my age.” Then there was the legal question of age: In America, Portman always worked children’s hours. In England, actors turn adult at 16. “So all of a sudden I get there and I’m working

seriously don’t think I saw one teen movie script.” She shrugs. “And the kind of movies I love are those silly, frothy movies. Ask me about classic film history, and I m a moron. But ask me about teen movie history, and I know everything. I mean, the movie I’m most dying to see right now is [Britney Spears’s] Crossroads.” Instead, Portman ended up cast in a handful of what-is-wrong-with-this-picture roles Heat, Anywhere But Here, Where the Heart Is playing characters who were quiet and mysteriously afflicted. In these roles, like most stars, Portman found a way to be not just a person but a kind of person; she found a way to embody a question. With her unmussed features and lush, considering eyes, Portman’s question was, what does the world make of this sort of woman? The answer came from George Lucas: She becomes a queen.

Portman was 14 when she took the role of Queen Amidala. She met with the casting agent, was flown to Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California, 15-hour days, and I was completely not used to it. Until Episode I, everything I did was for fun. It was my summer break, and I just wanted to go have a good time. And it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t the running and jumping I thought it would be; it was hard work, and it was overwhelming.”

The movie’s plot involved a double for the queen. When the actresses were in their heavy interstellar makeup, Portman’s mom would sometimes walk up to the other Queen Amidala. “At a certain point I think I just… gave up.” She laughs. “Basically what I would do between scenes was go somewhere and cry. When you watch the film, you can actually tell, you can see in lots of scenes that I’ve been crying and my eyes are red. It showed on film, and I learned my lesson.” Star Wars movies are passport-intensive. Attack ofthe Clones was filmed in Italy, Tunisia, London, Sydney, and Spain. It takes many shifting locations to assemble the solid look of another world. Portman started the movie at 19, a grown-up professional.

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