Alma Har’el Sticks Up for Natalie Portman: ‘She Fought for Patty Jenkins, Lynne Ramsay’

Portman has come under fire this week for only working on two feature films directed by women.
Natalie Portman92nd Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Feb 2020
Natalie Portman
David Fisher/Shutterstock

Filmmaker Alma Har’el has come to Natalie Portman’s defense after the Oscar-winning “Black Swan” actress received backlash for only starring in two feature films directed by women throughout her career, one of which was her feature directorial debut. Portman came under fire after the 2020 Oscars, in which she wore a Dior dress that featured the names of many women filmmakers who were snubbed in the Best Director category in favor of five male filmmakers. Portman’s dress spotlighted Greta Gerwig, Lorene Scafaria, Celine Sciamma, and “Honey Boy” director Har’el herself. Rose McGowan publicly slammed Portman for not practicing what she preaches.

“[This is the] kind of protest that gets rave reviews from the mainstream media for its bravery. Brave? No, not by a long shot,” McGowan wrote on Facebook. “More like an actress acting the part of someone who cares. As so many of them do. I find Portman’s type of activism deeply offensive to those of us who actually do the work.”

Har’el took to her own social media pages this week to defend Portman, writing, “If you need a class at being classy read Natalie Portman’s statement. Appreciation for the discourse but Natalie fought for [Patty] Jenkins (“Thor 2”) and [Lynne] Ramsay (“Jane Got a Gun”) and many more. She also worked with many women directors on music videos and advertisements. I stan this class act and thank her.”

Portman said as much herself in a statement responding to McGowan’s post. The actress admitted she’s “only made a few films with women,” but it hasn’t been for the lack of trying. “I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work,” Portman wrote. “So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.” The actress also listed some of the women directors she’s collaborated with outside of feature films, including Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, and Shirin Neshat.

Har’el points out that Portman has a history of fighting for women directors when the studios were trying to phase them out. The Hollywood Reporter wrote in December 2011 that Portman was furious that Marvel parted ways with Patty Jenkins on “Thor 2.” Jenkins was set to be the first women MCU director but creative differences led to fears the movie would miss its scheduled release date and friction between the director and the studio.

THR wrote at the time: “Portman was said to be re-engaged in ‘Thor 2′ because of Jenkins’ involvement and especially proud that she would have played a role in opening the door for a woman to direct such a film. The Oscar winner is contractually obligated to stay with the project and Marvel is now said to be working overtime to smooth over the situation by including her in discussions about whom to hire as a replacement.”

Jenkins was replaced by Alan Taylor on “Thor 2,” which ended up earning some of the worst reviews for any Marvel movie to date. A couple years later, Portman would find herself in a similar situation with Lynne Ramsay on “Jane Got a Gun.” Portman was a producer on the project and was involved in hiring Ramsay as director. The filmmaker famously quit the film just days before production started after it became clear she would not have final cut privileges on the movie. Original cast member Jude Law quit the film as well, citing the only reason he agreed to star in the movie was to work with Ramsay. Portman stayed committed to the project as she was also a producer. Gavin O’Connor replaced Ramsay.

Next up for Portman is a return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Jane Foster in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” directed by recent Oscar winner Taika Waititi.

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