With her first feature as director, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” set to bow out of competition at Cannes on May 16, Natalie Portman appears to have a new motto both in front of and behind the camera: Go big or go home. As Variety reports, the Oscar winner has signed on the star as Jackie Kennedy in “No” director Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie,” which focuses on the former First Lady in the days immediately following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Darren Aronofsky, who directed her to the Best Actress statuette in “Black Swan” (2010), will produce.
The news comes fast on the heels of the announcement, first reported by Deadline, that Portman is slated to play another iconic American woman, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in the upcoming “On the Basis of Sex,” which follows “the notorious RBG” as she faces down sexism over the course of her brilliant legal career. Marielle Heller, who helmed Sundance breakout “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” is reportedly in talks to direct.
A “blunt” interview with The Hollywood Reporter; Hebrew-language “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” which Portman, who also stars, adapted from the memoir by Israeli writer Amos Oz; one Terrence Malick picture (“Knight of Cups”) finished and another (“Weightless”) still to be seen; forthcoming Western “Jane Got a Gun”; a rumored interest in “Ex Machina” director Alex Garland’s “Annihilation”: Portman is, quite simply, killing it right now, pursuing meaty roles, working with idiosyncratic filmmakers, and tackling directing and producing, too.
Of course, “Knight of Cups” left Berlin tarnished by criticism that Malick’s late style—pairing Emmanuel Lubezki’s breathtaking cinematography with wispy, meandering quasi-narratives—has begun to wear thin, and many of these projects are in the early stages. Plus, Portman’s first film as producer, “Jane Got a Gun,” has been roiled by controversy ever since initial director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) reportedly left the project days before shooting; last spring, Ramsay settled a lawsuit alleging that she was “repeatedly under the influence of alcohol, abusive to members of the cast and crew and generally disruptive.”
Nevertheless, after a relatively fallow period following “Black Swan,” Portman appears ready to use her clout to pursue passion projects—and, despite her protestations to THR that it’s a “false idol,” perhaps another Academy Award. (Biopics are catnip to voters, after all, and both Jacqueline Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are beloved figures.) This will be no surprise to anyone familiar with Portman’s career. Though the films themselves have been uneven at times, the actress has consistently leaned toward independent fare ever since her 1994 screen debut, in Luc Besson’s “Léon: The Professional.” A little more than twenty years later, she’s begun to parlay her hard-earned reputation into a busy schedule of challenging productions. The former Swan Queen has an edge, and it’s exciting to see her use it.