Portman’s ‘Black Swan’ Controversy: Much Ado About Nothing?

Natalie Portman Black SwanAll morning, news sites, blogs, Twitter, and every other form of free communication have been buzzing with this claim that Natalie Portman didn’t really do all the dancing in her Oscar-winning role as Nina Sayers in Black Swan. The deal is that the woman who did all the “complicated” or “extremely difficult” scenes, Sarah Lane of New York’s American Ballet Theater Company, just released her claim that Portman only did “5 percent” of the dancing scenes in the film and furthered that by purporting to be a victim of a “cover-up.” Now, not only has the director of the film, Darren Aronfsky, completely debunked those claims by laying a serious knowledge bomb on us all in an official statement that said Portman did 111 of the 139 dance shots in the film, but I feel the need to ask why the hell Lane thought that any of us would feel sorry for her when she released these “shocking” “facts.” Seriously, why?

Did little miss ballerina think that for some reason even if she was correct in her atrociously bad math skills — that’s right, 111 out of 139 is 80 percent, not five percent — that we’d all suddenly jump to say, “Oh no! Take that Oscar from that lying, cheating Natalie Portman?” Because while there were a few bandwagoners who did, most of us well-balanced folks who saw the movie know that while dance plays a huge part of Portman’s transformation and a huge part of the story, many of Portman’s strongest scenes — and those that likely tipped the scales for Academy voters — were not even set in a dance studio or on the stage. And many of those that were used Lane’s dancing and through computer generated magic placed Natalie’s face over the body double’s. She was well aware that she would provide physical and visual support for Natalie’s performance when she signed up for the film. It’s part of the deal when signing up as someone’s BODY DOUBLE.

Furthermore, I admit, Lane dances beautifully. That’s why she was hired for the film. I’m not denying that, but guess what? They don’t give out Oscars for Best Dance Performance of the Year. They give them out for Best Actress and any way you slice it — even before Aronofksy took to defending Portman with the most solid of arguments (basic MATH) — it really shouldn’t matter. Portman is the one who acted out Nina’s mental breakdown and demise. You don’t see Lane standing in for Portman when she drunkenly screams at her mother in their apartment or when she has that hangnail moment in the ladies room. The acting is the heart of the film, the dancing is the bedrock. The film promotes the illusion that Portman does all the dancing because it’s necessary to bring the story to life. You don’t see the guys who did the digital work on Portman’s face yelling about a conspiracy because they were the ones who made it happen but no one’s talking about them. Films are all about illusion; that’s the beauty of the art form. Why in the world a claim like this should matter when just months ago we were praising the creation of something that is in essence a great example of the craft of illusion is beyond me. This strikes me as nothing more than a woman who’s upset she’s not getting enough attention.

Dear Sarah Lane, you’re a great dancer and you’re lucky enough to get PAID to do it. Stop whining and get back to your amazing job that millions of girls all over the world would kill for. 

Source: EW, Wall Street Journal