She's got the Oscar, but whether Natalie Portman danced her way to the highest award in Hollywood is a question that, apparently, remains unanswered. Depending on who you ask.
Fox Searchlight Films released a statement over the weekend declaring that Portman did most of the dancing in psychological ballet thriller "Black Swan." The statement comes in response to accusations by dance double Sarah Lane that scenes depicting Portman dancing in the film did not actually include Portman doing the dancing.
“We were fortunate to have Sarah there to cover the more complicated dance sequences and we have nothing but praise for the hard work she did. However, Natalie herself did most of the dancing featured in the final film," the studio said.
Lane came out firing against the popular belief that Portman had indeed done the dancing shown on film, telling Entertainment Weekly on Friday that it was all substitutes, movie magic and PR wizardry.
“They wanted to create this idea in people’s minds that Natalie was some kind of prodigy or so gifted in dance and really worked so hard to make herself a ballerina in a year and a half for the movie, basically because of the Oscar,” Lane told EW. “It is demeaning to the profession and not just to me. I’ve been doing this for 22 years…. Can you become a concert pianist in a year and a half, even if you’re a movie star?”
That harsh set of accusations came after Portman's choreographer, on-screen dance partner (and now fiance) Benjamin Millepied vouched for her dance cred in a LA Times article a few days earlier.
"It was so believable, it was fantastic, that beautiful movement quality," he told the paper. "There are articles now talking about her dance double that are making it sound like [Sarah Lane, her body double] did a lot of the work, but really, she just did the footwork, and the fouettés, and one diagonal [phrase] in the studio. Honestly, 85% of that movie is Natalie."
Portman, who studied ballet until she was 13 years old, trained for over a year to get her dance moves and near emaciated body in professional ballet shape. It was an experience, Portman said, that sometimes left her thinking that she might die.
But it wasn't enough, Lane insisted.
“I mean, from a professional dancer’s standpoint, she doesn’t look like a professional ballet dancer at all and she can’t dance in pointe shoes. And she can’t move her body; she’s very stiff,” she said.
Portman did have another double, Kimberly Prosa, whom Huffington Post blogger Debra Levine interviewed around the time the film came out. Prosa vouched, at least in part, for Portman's ability and authenticity.
"Natalie took class, she studied for several months, from the waist up is her," Prosa said. "Sarah Lane, a soloist at ABT, did the heavy tricks, she did the fouéttes, but they only had her for a limited time, a couple of weeks, so I did the rest of whatever dance shots they needed.
"She [Portman] definitely put her work in. Just in a couple of months, she looked credible -- all the dancers on the set were really impressed at how well she pulled that off -- it was pretty amazing."
Meanwhile, Portman will take on an entirely different role in her next project, the spoof medieval comedy "Your Highness," co-starring Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel.