Portman on ‘Black Swan’ eroticism: “Extreme, not raunchy”

Posted by · 5:48 pm · November 17th, 2010

When it comes to Oscar campaigning, sex can be something of a double-edged sword. We all know that the Academy has often responded well to attractive young actresses baring flesh for their art: Kate Winslet was the most recent beneficiary, but Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Holly Hunter and Jane Fonda are among the other actresses who spun open onscreen sexuality into Oscar gold.

That said, while raw sex scenes don’t necessarily offend the Academy’s delicate sensibilities, voters can nonetheless shy away from performances that delight in their own kinkiness: recent snubs for the likes of Naomi Watts in “Mulholland Drive” and Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Secretary” suggest that Oscar favors solemnly tasteful kitchen-sink eroticism over more heightened depictions of sexual pleasure. (After all, it wasn’t Diane Lane’s hot love scenes that earned her that unlikely Best Actress nod for “Unfaithful”; it was that guilt-ridden reaction shot on the train ride home.)

So Natalie Portman, whose Oscar-tipped performance in “Black Swan” features steamy scenes of lesbian lovemaking and individual masturbation that might repel fustier voters, is smart to emphasise the weighty artistic demands of these scenes in a recent V Magazine interview. The narrative created is one of a demure actress studiedly shedding her inhibitions for the sake of her craft, and should therefore earn her the same “bravery” points that counted in Berry’s favor back in 2001.

Perhaps alluding to her Oscar-nominated turn as a stripper in “Closer,” Portman explains her physical commitment to “Black Swan” as follows:

I was figuring out my own sexual identity, likes and dislikes and all that stuff, and it’s weird to be doing stuff on film as you’re figuring it out… It’s annoying, because online bullshit interferes with what I want to do artistically. I’m not opposed to sexuality or nudity in a film, but I’m very opposed to pornography sites and you’re pretty much giving them material if you do any of that. It’s always a big dilemma for me.

Meanwhile, of her key sex scene with Mila Kunis, she says, “It’s not raunchy — it’s extreme.” Except, well, it is raunchy, and proudly so. For campaign purposes, however, the more Portman plays this factor down — and the more of a challenge we’re led to believe it was for her — the better her chances. Nicely done.

[Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures]




→ 8 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

8 responses so far

  • 1 11-17-2010 at 6:11 pm

    Vince in WeHo said...

    Really good points about Watts and Gyllenhaal. They were also pretty unkown to national audiences at those respective points in their career. Perhaps the familiarity of Portman may make it more acceptable.

    But, what do I know?

  • 2 11-17-2010 at 6:39 pm

    DylanS said...

    I totally agree with the “bravery” argument and the comparison to Berry in “Monster’s Ball”. She and Portman are similar in that although we acknowledged both of them as talents, we took both of them foregranted for a long time, perhaps because they’re both beautiful.

  • 3 11-17-2010 at 6:59 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    The Watts snub was one of the Academy’s great disasters.

  • 4 11-17-2010 at 7:19 pm

    Melissa said...

    I’ve seen Black Swan and unless I missed something Natalie’s scenes aren’t remotely as raunchy as Berry’s or Winslet’s.

  • 5 11-17-2010 at 7:47 pm

    Winston said...

    I can’t believe Judi Dench was nominated for “Iris” that year. Totally undeserving when Audrey Tatou, Tilda Swinton, and Naomi Watts should of had a slot.

  • 6 11-17-2010 at 11:02 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Melissa: Not really saying the scenes are directly equivalent. But they’re enough to get people hot and bothered.

  • 7 11-18-2010 at 5:09 am

    Maxim said...

    “After all, it wasn’t Diane Lane’s hot love scenes that earned her that unlikely Best Actress nod for “Unfaithful”; it was that guilt-ridden reaction shot on the train ride home.)”

    No matter what it was, “Unfaithful” was absolutely awful, simplistic, moralistic crap.

  • 8 11-18-2010 at 12:42 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “I can’t believe Judi Dench was nominated for “Iris” that year. Totally undeserving when Audrey Tatou, Tilda Swinton, and Naomi Watts should of had a slot.”

    You’re in agreement that Renee Zellweger for Bridget Jones should stay?

    Winslet’s scenes weren’t raunchy – Berry’s scene with Billy Bob is borderline pornographic just like producer Lee Daniels wanted it.

    OT after seeing a clip from Miranda Richardson’s performance I’m fully rooting for her in the BSA race this year. Frankly I love watching cast members from certain films win their Oscars at later stages of their career – example the cast of The Fisher King – Mercedes won BSA for her role in the film, Robin Williams won an unjust BSA Oscar for Good Will Hunting, then Jeff Bridges finally wins BA for Crazy Heat – in Miranda’s case it would be members from the cast of The Crying Game – first it was Jim Broadbent for BSA in Iris, then Forest Whitaker for BA Last King of Scotland, and now it can be Miranda’s turn.