Natalie Portman: Going ‘full Method’ is ‘a luxury that women can’t afford’

It’s sort of gone without remark in recent months, but Natalie Portman has gone solo to all of the premieres and awards-season events for May December. She has not been seen with her possibly-estranged husband Benjamin Millepied on a red carpet for some time. Last May/June, there were widespread reports about Benjamin’s affair with a young French actress, and last August, there were claims that Natalie and Benjamin had separated. No one has confirmed that the marriage is over, but Benjamin’s absence during the awards season says a lot to me.

Meanwhile, Natalie was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal (via Variety). She was asked about her acting process and whether she ever goes “full Method,” as in, staying in character 24-7. Her answer was so good:

Natalie Portman‘s career has spanned an Oscar-winning role and Marvel blockbusters, but what it has never included is Method acting. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Magazine, the “May December” star revealed she’s never once tried to Method act during her career — and even said such a technique is not something many women can afford to do as actors.

“I’ve gotten very into roles, but I think it’s honestly a luxury that women can’t afford,” Portman explained. “I don’t think that children or partners would be very understanding of, you know, me making everyone call me ‘Jackie Kennedy’ all the time.”

According to Portman, going full Method actor just wouldn’t align with her role as a mother. That’s not to say she doesn’t do serious prep. She trained as a ballet dancer for months to get into character for “Black Swan,” even going so far as to reshape her diet to just almonds and carrots. But Portman is still able to separate herself from the character she’s playing during production.

[From Variety]

It reminds me of Robert Pattinson’s comments on Method acting, where he said “You only ever see people do the method when they’re playing a–holes. You never see someone being lovely to everyone while they’re really deep in character.” A–holes use the cover of Method acting to be a–holes, basically. And yes, it’s almost exclusively men who do that. Actresses have to get on with their day. Of course, there are exceptions, like whatever Lady Gaga put herself through on House of Gucci.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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16 Responses to “Natalie Portman: Going ‘full Method’ is ‘a luxury that women can’t afford’”

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  1. Cherry says:

    Love this. I never considered it before and I think Nathalie’s totally right: going full method is only possible in a position of extreme priviledge- i.e. if you are a (white, rich) man.
    Only thing that nags me about her answer is that ‘women’ translates as ‘mothers and wives’ here (“I don’t think that children or partners would be very understanding”). That applies to her situation, so it’s understandable. I think it applies to women in general, though- with or without “children and partners”. Women are taught from a young age to always be considerate of other people’s needs, much more so than men, if at all.

    • ShazBot says:

      Agree with you that it does equate women as all being wives and mothers and I’m sure it’s an answer she would explain more in conversation. And it makes me wonder how these method actors interact with their children?
      That said, I do wonder how much leeway a childless, single woman would get if she was always going full method. Lady Gaga does (she did fighter pilot training to sing a song for Top Gun) and I don’t know enough about whether she’s respected in the industry or whether people shut talk her behind her back.

      • Cherry says:

        My point was that I don’t think it makes much difference if you have children/a partner or not, no woman can get away with always going full method. Maybe Lady Gaga’s the exception. Or maybe Madonna. But I doubt it, honestly. Patriarchal structures are strong & ubiquitous. Even this website has had nothing but ridicule for Lady Gaga’s antics whereas I never saw them write in the same way about Jeremy Strong’s, for instance.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        Women are raised to be people pleasers 24/7 so it wouldn’t matter if she was single and childless. A woman can’t get away with being an a-hole character 24/7. I think you’re spot on, Cherry.

      • Concern Fae says:

        As a rock star, GaGa has built a world surrounding her that supports her in whatever she feels is necessary to her creativity. Not the usual way a woman lives. Remembering the documentary that came out about her preparing for the Super Bowl. If she wants to cook her own breakfast, her chef smiles and watches her do it.

        As to entitled men being rich. I’ve seen a great deal of ghastly and controlling behavior from very broke ass dudes. They basically have to convince people they have the potential to be “great” and it flows from there. White supremacy is about hierarchy, so while wealth is often a huge indicator, it’s not necessary.

  2. SarahCS says:

    I read some coverage of this elsewhere and there was a discussion about what method acting started out as (connecting with the emotions of your character) and what it has become (staying in character 24/7) which I found fascinating as acting is a craft I know next to nothing about. It’s interesting how this is another area where people continue to try and always do more than everyone else to make themselves stand out whether it’s necessary or not.

    • lgtrent says:

      This! True ‘method’ acting is just that…drawing from your own past experiences/traumas to bring the emotions to the surface the character is feeling. (As an actor, not the philosophy I jive with, but seems to work for some). It has never mentioned in any true book on ‘method’ the act of staying in character 24/7. I am not sure where that bastardized version of it came from, but it is made up and has become trendy in some actors’ eyes.

    • Juju says:

      Yes, 100%!!! Stanislavski would be horrified to know how the term “method actor” is being used in today’s society. Jared Leto and others who use it as an excuse to be difficult on set are just a-holes.

      But I agree with Natalie historically, being difficult onset was almost a source of pride for male actors. Where women get labeled as divas.and get blacklisted.

  3. She-Ra says:

    Natalie always looks mad in almost every photo, I agree with her here though.

  4. Barnabus says:

    Natalie Portman isn’t really talking about method acting on set and how it affects other actors. She’s talking about actors who live inside a character and carry that identity into their personal lives. She sees a greater challenge for women because when the cameras stop rolling she has to jump back into her real-life role as mother and partner. Not every method actor commits 24/7, Meryl Streep – a mother and (former) partner – is legendary for her method approach, and it’s not that difficult to explain to your children that people are calling you Jackie Kennedy because that’s a character you’re playing.

    Ii see this less about method acting and more about finding a work/life balance that works for you.

  5. Bumblebee says:

    Ummm….if this is how method acting works…24/7 being in character and demanding everyone call you by a different name…then my son at age 4 was excellent at this. I’m sure he wasn’t the first young child to do this. He was always different animals. It was the best.
    So…now I’m imagining one of these a-hole pretentious method actors climbing around the top of the sofa. Dad comes home and says ‘Tom, why are you….’Dad! Dad! I’M NOT TOM! I’M LIZARD! HISSSSS!…’Okay Lizard, how was your day in the forest?’
    My son was a gorilla at a wedding, a puppy at a promotion ceremony, a horse in the grocery store, a tiger at preschool.
    So yeah, any adult giving me the excuse of, I’m treating you like an a-hole because I’m ‘in character’, is going to get put in time-out.

  6. Samab says:

    Method Is bullshit

  7. gab says:

    When Natalie went as “method” as she did for Black Swan it was before she had kids.

  8. Ameerah M says:

    Gaga is also single and not a mother so it was much easier for her as well. Also she’s Gaga and people kind of expect her to be over the top and ridiculous.

  9. Dazed and Confused says:

    “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?” – Sir Laurence Olivier to Dustin Hoffman