Darren Aronofsky Comes to Natalie Portman’s Defense in Silly BLACK SWAN Controversy

     March 28, 2011


Last week, a silly controversy erupted over how much dancing Natalie Portman did in Black Swan.  Benjamin Millepied, the film’s choreographer (and Portman’s finacee) told the LA Times that Portman did “85 percent” of the dancing in the film.  Her dancing double Sarah Lane responded by telling EW that Portman’s work only comprised 5 percent of the full body shots.  Lane also says there was a cover-up and that producers asked her not to speak so as not to jeopardize Portman’s Oscar chances.  Now director Darren Aronofsky has stepped in to try and put the matter to rest.  He says that the of 139 dance shots in the movie, 111 are Portman and 28 are Lane.  Hit the jump for his full statement and my thoughts on this “controversy”.

black_swan_movie_poster_01Aronofsky released the following statement to EW through Fox Searchlight, the studio behind Black Swan:

“Here is the reality. I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that’s 80% Natalie Portman. What about duration? The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second. There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement. Even so, if we were judging by time over 90% would be Natalie Portman.

And to be clear Natalie did dance on pointe in pointe shoes. If you look at the final shot of the opening prologue, which lasts 85 seconds, and was danced completely by Natalie, she exits the scene on pointe. That is completely her without any digital magic. I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor. Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don’t want anyone to think that’s not her they are watching. It is.”

Here’s the simple truth: actors have stunt doubles and if you think ballet dancing is easier than stunt work, I encourage you to try it at home (but I will take no responsibility for your inevitable injury).  I don’t know if Oscar voters voted for Portman because they were convinced by her dancing.  I would like to think they voted for her because she gave a compelling performance.  But even if not a single frame of the film was actually Portman dancing, it wouldn’t change the fact that she did train to get a dancer’s body and learn the study of ballet.  As Lane points out, Portman “really tried to go method and get into a dancers head and really feel like a ballet dancer.”  And she delivered on that count.

black_swan_movie_image_natalie_portman_02I’ve spoken with friends who actually understand dance and can tell the difference between good ballet dancing and bad ballet dancing.  One friend thought Portman was stiff (a criticism Lane shares) while another felt that Portman’s dancing was passable, but nowhere near good enough to be thought of as a prima ballerina.  Based on those opinions, I can only come to one of two conclusions: 1) Portman is dancing on screen and she’s not a very good dancer, which is excusable for someone who only spent a year learning ballet as an adult; or 2) Sarah Lane, who has 22 years ballet experience, is on screen and she’s not a very good dancer.

But here’s the real point: who cares?  My enjoyment of Black Swan isn’t lessened by knowing who’s doing the dancing.  People who are now upset at Natalie Portman probably don’t care about the film and are probably predisposed not to like Portman anyway.  And if that’s the case, then a rebuttal from Aronofsky won’t make any difference because they’ll simply say, “Oh, he’s just on Portman’s side.  Of course he’s defending her.”

If you’re now sour on Portman because you think she didn’t do her own dancing, I have some more bad news for you: she also didn’t really have sex with Mila Kunis and she didn’t really grow giant black wings during a dance performance.  Sorry if that’s not method enough for you.

  • Tommyk123123

    Glad we can put this to rest. Not that it ever should have been an issue in the first place.

  • Yahzee Skellington

    I agree… who cares? She did her best and that’s what a professional actress do.

    P.S. Lovely final comment Matt, I couldn’t agree more

  • Excpired

    Wasn’t her Oscar for best actor, not for best ballerina? Her job was to act like she was a ballerina, and I’m pretty sure she fooled the vast majority of us in that regard.

    Darren’s job was to make us think all of the dancing was done by Portman on screen, and if you watch the movie and think it is Portman’s character then good!

    Who gives a hoot what was actually learned or done, or filmed. All that matters is how it appears on film, none of this crap should factor into a film winning an award for film making because all of the evidence for a vote sits inside the silver screen.

  • lol

    Typical Jews defending another Jew.

    • Nick Hart

      i agree with mr. brian at the bottom, except i am jewish. outside of this article your comment would be disgusting. in the context that it has nothing to do with the article, and that the name you are using implies you are supposedly humorous, you are nothing less than scum.

      in response to the article, very well written, couldn’t agree more with your response. i saw this coming from the day the dance double made that comment. i feel like being any sort of double for a film is a thankless job to some extent and people that make statements like that are just ridiculous.

    • dunno

      i’m not even jewish but you’re a stupid jerk ^^

  • Pgitt

    Next thing you know, they’re going to say that Rodney Dangerfield did not do his own diving in “Back to School.” Seriously. I heard Dangerfield trained for years to nail the Triple Lindy.

  • Daft

    I would like to continue to believe Natalie and Mila really had sex thank you.

  • Junierizzle

    I cant believe this is news. Let’s say that Portman actually didn’t do any dancing. I’m talking about her double doing 100% of the dancing. WHO CARES! It’s all make believe.
    We all Know that Arnie didn’t actually jump into the L.A. River on his motorcycle in T2. We can totally tell it’s his stunt double. Do we think less of his performance? No.

    Whenever you don’t see an actors face in a shot, it’s safe to wonder if it’s a double.

    This is just a classic case of people trying to bring someone down when they are on top.

  • Brody1465

    ” she also didn’t really have sex with Mila Kunis ” The hell you say!

  • Sara

    who cares……

  • leviathanus

    she also didn’t really have sex with Mila Kunis

    you got no proof for this…….

  • Brian

    Hey lol,

    I’m not even Jewish and I’m disgusted by your comment. If you’re going to talk shit like that grow some balls and use your real name. Gutless coward.

  • Josh

    I am more depressed that she didnt have sex with Mila than I am by the allegations that it wasnt really her dancing….

  • charly

    I find it more offensive that they SAID she did most of the dancing than the possibility she did not.
    A pretty overhyped movie anyway – fits the overall picture!

  • xtheory

    oscars are awarded for acting, not dancing, right?

  • Albert


  • Carl


    I’m pretty sure you’re Jewish. If you’re so brave why don’t you put your real and full name, phone # and address so that we know it’s the real you. Idiot hypocrite.

    Any way Natalie Portman can’t act. Her last true acting ability was in Leon: The Professional.

  • battleangel

    Uh… Idiot hypocrite, Carl? Where’s your full name, phone # and address? Way to go on the record as a Jew hating scumbag amigo :)

    T minus 5 minutes to one of the most outrageously stupid and devolved talkback threads in the history of this site…

  • Emma

    Matt Goldberg…I love you lol. It’s nice to finally read some level-headed and sane comments about this whole thing. I just can’t believe how much it has escalated.

    Black Swan was amazing, and Natalie was phenomenal as Nina. And that’s that.

  • Turd Ferguson

    In response to her being stiff…wasn’t that supposed to be the reason for her almost not getting the lead role in the ballet in the movie? …thought that was purposeful…and i think i’m right

  • Brian


    I think there’s a big difference between making a racist comment and calling out a fool. And as battleangel so helpfully pointed out, you do exactly what you chastised me for. The reason I’d never post such specific personal info for someone like you to read is because I’d probably come home one day to find my garbage stolen and dog pregnant.

    All ridiculousness aside… I still haven’t seen this movie and look forward to checking it out.

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  • http://neretva-riverinperil.blogspot.com/ Santa

    ohhh, mr.goldberg, it’s not important who danced what ? really? all this writings just to say it’s not so important !?
    it was important for the oscar.

  • http://neretva-riverinperil.blogspot.com/ Santa

    ohhh, mr.goldberg, it’s not important who danced what ? really? all this writings just to say it’s not so important !?
    it was important for the oscar.

  • http://neretva-riverinperil.blogspot.com/ Santa

    Nor Sarah ever implied she became actress. What she did was a legitimate defense of her art, and it can’t be more clear that was ALL, especially since she claimed she would do it again (with a same director and everybody else involved). No one would accept humiliating phone-calls and requests for participation in deception by stopping all media exposures, just because studio want Oscar for her leading woman. And she did got Oscar, you know, for the role which takes two person to achieve, and after which this other person gets uncredited due to perfidious deception by studio and eventually back-stabbed by Natalies’ boyfriend-choreographer and film director, despite she did most of it !

    The fact is Sarah didn’t say much, she just explained what some already knew – she danced 95% of all FULL-BODY dance shot, not all Portman shots, as Aronofsky put it in his pathetic attempt to blur this issue about percentage and who danced what and how much, and at the end make Sarah a lier. As if nobody else is capable of counting those scenes (http://www.jerrilynnreeves.com/2011/04/black-swan-natalie-portman-verses-sarah-lane-who-did-what/). In addition she reviled that studio, in attempt to repress debate, called her prior to Oscar requesting that she stops giving interviews !
    She didn’t ask for credit, but she didn’t allowed studio to stampede over her, and her art, without speaking out and for that I salute her – BRAVO !
    Sarah, unlike Portman, is super-talented ARTIST, like Portman she is internationally famous, but again unlike Portman Sarah is highly regarded as a performer and artistically recognized from NY to Moscow, and from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, and with her super-star reputation she represents entire world of ballet and their art-form.

    Interestingly, your entire blogpost in defense of Portman and her already diminished persona, which is consequence of her mind-set and mentality, could and should, ironically, be used in defense of Lane !

    Anyway, these two interviews tells us more then your pretty biased blogpost full of insinuations could ever tell:
    - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrgXC-RUMR8
    - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCN4nOO4jvs

    On the side of all this fuss, it can’t be denied that Natlie Portman is very important as a sort of PR face for certain political entities, as well as mouthpiece for certain ideological discourse. It can be recognized among all these replies and comments too, just by going through names and tone.

    Hollywood is simply a calamity for the art of film, period !
    Portman is simply immoral, untalented, and generally despised spoiled & unappreciative brat, period !