Natalie Portman Reflects on ‘Leon, the Professional’: It Has ‘Some Cringey, to Say the Least, Aspects to It’ 

"It's complicated for me," Portman said of the legacy of Luc Besson's "beloved" film.
"Léon the Professional"
"Léon the Professional"
Sygma via Getty Images

Natalie Portman is looking back on “Léon, the Professional.”

The 1994 film, helmed by Luc Besson, stars Portman as a young orphan who was mentored by a professional hitman (Jean Reno) after her family is murdered. Portman was 11 years old when she was cast in her film debut that had undertones of a sexual relationship.

“It’s a movie that’s still beloved, and people come up to me about it more than almost anything I’ve ever made,” Portman told The Hollywood Reporter, “and it gave me my career, but it is definitely, when you watch it now, it definitely has some cringey, to say the least, aspects to it. So, yes, it’s complicated for me.”

Portman addressed the allegations against “Léon, the Professional” director Luc Besson, who was accused in 2018 of repeatedly raping Dutch-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy over the course of two years. The case against Besson was dismissed in 2021 after an investigation.

“It’s devastating,” Portman said of the Besson accusations, adding that “of course” she was shocked by the claims.

“I really didn’t know,” Portman explained of her experience with Besson. “I was a kid working. I was a kid. But I don’t want to say anything that would invalidate anyone’s experience.”

The “V for Vendetta” actress previously compared “Léon, the Professional” to “Lolita” and opened up about being “sexualized” at age 11.

“I was definitely aware of the fact that I was being portrayed as this ‘Lolita’ figure,” Portman said in 2020. “Being sexualized as a child, I think took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid, and it made me [feel] like the way I could be safe was to be like, ‘I’m conservative,’ and ‘I’m serious and you should respect me,’ and ‘I’m smart,’ and ‘don’t look at me that way.'”

She added, “So many people had this impression of me that I was super serious and conservative and I realized I consciously cultivated that because it was always to make me feel safe. Like, ‘Oh, if someone respects you, they’re not going to objectify you.’ When I was in my teens I was like, ‘I don’t want to have any love scenes or make-out scenes.’ I would start choosing parts that were less sexy because it made me worried about the way I was perceived and how safe I felt.”

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