Press: Natalie Portman on Not Reading Her Press — and That Vox Lux Accent
Categories Films Interview Press Vox Lux

Press: Natalie Portman on Not Reading Her Press — and That Vox Lux Accent

For Natalie Portman in the year 2018, conventional movie stardom is a home she can always return to. As of late, however, she’s preferred to restrict herself to the occasional visit. The gaps between straight-down-the-middle studio projects have gotten wider, even though her presence at multiplexes never quite fades. It’s been five years since her last appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But as an actress with the name recognition to get stranger, smaller movies the green light, she’s grown judicious and adventurous in her role selection.

Her CV contains all the typical beats of your standard-issue A-lister résumé, just in their most unlikely or sophisticated form. These days, her version of a popcorn picture would be something like Annihilation, a heart-of-darkness march into the metaphysical unknown more conceptual than most modern sci-fi by half. Her take on Oscar bait would be Jackie, an elliptical meditation on grief and historicity which avoided cliché so defiantly that it polarized actual awards voters. Where other actors dabble in directing with glossy vanity projects, she returned to Israel to adapt a difficult novel for a film she didn’t even bother pushing all that hard in American theaters. Her peers might try to stretch their range with the occasional art film; she’s charted the limits of sense and experience in two collaborations with Terrence Malick.

Then there’s Vox Lux, a polarizing work of such ambition that it couldn’t possibly fit in the preceding paragraph. The first half follows a teenage girl named Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) through the crucible of tragedy along with her first steps as a newly minted pop star. Around the midway point, Brady Corbet’s film smash cuts forward 16 years and Portman steers the character into a downward spiral. The adult Celeste has a drinking problem, a drug problem, a being-a-negligent-mother problem, a terrorism problem, and a slew of other mental stressors that start to bear down on her as she readies her new concert tour. Here, Portman’s proficiency with women on the edge led to one of the most indelible performances of a challenging, unpredictable career.

During an interview with Vulture one frigid afternoon at Manhattan’s Whitby Hotel — a stone’s throw from the towering Sixth Avenue office buildings in which a guileless Celeste signs away her soul to the record executives — Portman talked all things Vox Lux, from her Noo Yawk accent to the massively scaled concert concluding the film to Celeste’s real-world inspiration. (Or lack thereof.)

First things first: the accent. Could you walk us through the process of forming Celeste’s voice?
I worked with my same dialect coach that I had on Jackie and Planetarium. She got dialects from a very specific subset of Staten Island, and then we just went full force with it. Because from the time she’s a kid, she’s exaggerating it in a way that makes it like an armor. There are people who, when they become famous, want to emphasize that they’re still from the street. It’s a shield of authenticity, and then the toughness also gives her more of a don’t-mess-with-me vibe. But of course, it’s transparently a performance. She’s on all the time.

I spoke with the director last week, and he had mentioned seeing some misinterpretations of the film. Have you found that dramatic choices like this can sometimes be misconstrued?
Hmm, I don’t know, if only because I don’t read the things people write about me.

That sounds healthy.
Oh, yeah. You latch onto the negative and ignore the positive, so I don’t find it to be helpful if it just makes me self-conscious. Plus, at this point, you’re not pointing out anything we can fix. I can’t go back in the film and change my accent. It doesn’t feel constructive, so I don’t have much of an idea of the reception apart from the interviews I’ve been doing, and face to face, people tend to be pretty friendly.

What’s been more interesting to me is how people make parallels to other roles I’ve done. People can draw thematic links that I’m too close to notice myself. I find all of this productive, more so than getting feedback on my portrayal. Pointing out running threads in my career makes me aware of what kinds of roles I’m drawn to, which I’m not really conscious of. I see my own tendencies more clearly.

The film being structured as it is, jumping from Celeste as a kid to her self-destructive adulthood, suggests that fame has had a poisonous effect on her over time. You’re someone who began acting at a very young age; was this something that you were mindful of, or made a conscious effort to avoid?
There are so many pop-culture stories of the child star flameout, the whole starlet gone wrong is a classic narrative in both music and Hollywood. I was definitely aware of that much, and my parents were hyperaware, so there was plenty of counterprogramming to my work.

Come to think of it, we don’t see much of Celeste’s parents at all in the film.
That was an active decision on [director] Brady [Corbet]’s part. We did interviews together earlier and he was talking about this exact thing, that he didn’t want to provide any easy answers, or fingers to point. That would be such a Western Intro to Psychology way to read the movie, like, “It was the parents! Of course!” To paraphrase what he said, some parents aren’t good or bad, they’re just neutral forces in their kids’ lives. They’re just there. Celeste isn’t a tragic victim of circumstance, either. She has an agency, a hand in her own demise. It empowers her, in a destructive sense.

My favorite scene might be when Celeste has the tantrum in the dressing room before the show. It feels unbound from realism, in a more accented style of performance. Is there an expressionistic quality to your acting?
Brady talks about the first half of the movie being in a minimalist mode, and the second half in a maximalist mode. It’s all extremes, and that goes for the acting as well. A lot of the stylistic choices — the fact that nobody ages in the film except Celeste, for one — there’s a purposeful fabulist side to it. So when my character calls for it, I take them a step back from reality. I think movies have lost a lot from trying to be naturalistic. Now, there are many films in a more naturalistic style that I love and move me a great deal, but there should be room for art on both sides of that divide. Most of the history of film is in the non-realistic world, tied up in fantasy and metaphor and fable. We got a lot of latitude from Celeste’s mantra, “They wanted a show, I gave ‘em a show.”

There’s a feedback mechanism, and this is what Brady means when he talks about the “pageantry of evil,” where people get rewarded with attention for bad behavior. The more outrageous, the more obnoxious, the more vulgar a figure can be, the more energy we spend on thinking and talking about them. It keeps cycling back into itself, and Celeste has already been through that cycle a lot of times in the second half.

I’ve seen a lot of interest in pinning the model for Celeste on a real-world pop star, and I wanted to offer you a chance to go on record.
No, there’s no one inspiration. Brady talks about her as an avatar for America. There’s not even a single pop star working right now that you could put your finger on. There are elements reminiscent of recurring tropes in pop stardom, the spiraling star who pulls it together, so you get shades from plenty of familiar stories. But these are archetypal. She’s not supposed to be a stand-in for anybody from the modern climate of pop music.

After having done Black Swan, was the lengthy final performance no big deal?
It was a very big deal! Going into any of these situations requires a great deal of ignorance about the scope of what will actually be expected of you. If you know what it’s going to entail, you’d never agree to it. But you go in blind, like, “Sure, I can figure this out in a month!” and then you just trust the experts around you and the [waves hand] magic of cinema. But this was a whole different variety of performing for me, learning the songs and recording and lip-sync training and moving with the other dancers. Keeping up the stamina for these rehearsals and the shoots gave me a new respect for what touring singers and dancers do.

My voice makes me want to jump out of my skin when I’m transcribing the recordings of interviews. How’d it feel to hear yourself for the first time in the final mixed recording, with all the Auto-Tune?
Oh, this was very fun! Because I had spent the studio sessions constantly apologizing, “I’m so sorry you have to listen to this,” and the song’s producer was like, “Ha! Don’t you worry your little head.” But then, when I heard it, I was thrilled. I asked Brady, when he first offered me the role, if he needed to hear me sing. And he just said, “That doesn’t matter.” In that moment, what he was going for started to make more sense to me.

Do you consider the ending to be redemptive for Celeste?
I do not. I think back to what Raffey says as Celeste in the beginning, “I don’t want them to think too much, I just want them to have fun.” That’s the voice of light: after all of this reflection about the world we live in, you can shut that off and escape into the music.

But isn’t there something solipsistic about shutting off, when we’ve just seen how dire things can be out in the world?
Yes, but there’s a beauty to it also. Maybe there is, you know, “the power of art” to help you find light when you’re in darkness. We see some reaction shots of the crowd, and they’re losing themselves in their love for Celeste, as if the world inside that stadium isn’t so dire. The scene’s not meant to be sarcastic, and neither is Raffey’s statement.

By anyone’s measure, Vox Lux is a dense film. Did you and Brady do much talking about big-picture stuff, subtext and whatnot?
What we spent the most time discussing was how this film occupies the space between the wars of this century. His first film, Childhood of a Leader, bridged the period between World War I and World War II. He wanted to know what conflicts could define the 21st century in the same way those defined the 20th. The war on our soil is mass shootings, and the foreign war is terror. How do we bridge the cultural gap between them using this character, is the main question that the film poses. That fascinated me. You don’t often get to think about film with this framing.

Source: Vulture

Press: Natalie Portman On Midterm Elections, Inclusion Riders, ‘Jane Got A Gun’ & Glamming It Up For ‘Vox Lux’
Categories Films Interview Press Vox Lux

Press: Natalie Portman On Midterm Elections, Inclusion Riders, ‘Jane Got A Gun’ & Glamming It Up For ‘Vox Lux’

As an actress, Natalie Portman has never been short of audaciousness, from her breakthrough role aged 12 as a precocious assassin in Léon: The Professional, to the role that won her the Oscar, as a masochistic ballerina in Black Swan, to her turn as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. She builds on this repertoire of complex protagonists with Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux, in which she plays Celeste, the survivor of a brutal school shooting who becomes a pop superstar after she writes and records a heartfelt anthem for the victims. The film is a commentary on the loss of innocence, set against the backdrop of our nation’s tragic gun culture and obsession with celebrity.

Did you know Brady Corbet before this project? Were you looking to do a musically-themed movie?

I watched his film [The Childhood of a Leader] and was really impressed by his work. His writing [in Vox Lux] was so specific and great. I would say the words as I was reading the screenplay; both the form of how Celeste says words and how she speaks in a specific manner. And she’s monologuing all the time. The content that she’s saying; she’s an incredible character and sometimes says nonsense, and sometimes says really insightful things all mixed together. It was a childhood dream come true to get to sing, like singing with a brush in front of the mirror, but I wouldn’t categorize this movie as a musical.

How does the PTSD from the school shooting impact her as she gets older?

It definitely affects her. Whenever we go through devastation, it haunts us, but she picks herself up. Because she had the experience, it becomes like a common occurrence, and people learn to live with the most extraordinary circumstances.

Production was delayed due to financing dropping out. How did that time off further assist in your preparation?

I was on my way to the airport to fly to New York when they called me, and I turned around and went back home. I had prepped everything, but had to prep again and I worked on the accent. In preparing the choreography we had three or four weeks with Benjamin [Millepied]. He was working with his company at the same time. He’d teach me and then I’d rehearse with movement trainer Raquel Horsford. I also did five or six recording sessions.

What rock musical documentaries did you watch in preparing to play Celeste?

I watched all the top ones, but I don’t really feel that she’s based on a particular person at all. I learned a lot about the lifestyle of what they’re doing, the rigor of being on the road, the taxing shows night after night, all the work and preparation, the dynamic relationship between all of the people a pop star travels, lives and works with; the family members and how they fit in. Sometimes they work for the pop star. Having difficult relationships with siblings seemed to be a recurring theme. I picked up on all their small behavior.

Being politically active, how did you feel after the midterm elections?

I feel excited about the many types of people who are representing more of what America looks like. The typical make-up of our government is slowly looking more like the make-up of our country. [Editor’s note: In an election record, 101 women won seats in the U.S. House of Representatives including such landmarks with the first female Muslims, Native American and youngest candidate being elected.]

Being an active member of Time’s Up, do you find that there’s any resistance from the industry in the campaign for inclusion riders on productions?

There is a resistance because I think a lot of people are making the argument that you’re hiring someone for their talent, not for their gender. Of course, I don’t think that anyone thinks the argument should ignore bias. There’s the great orchestra example which started a few years ago. The top orchestras were entirely male and what they started doing were auditions behind a curtain to judge the listening of the music. Suddenly there was a 50/50 parity in the make-up of their orchestras. They didn’t realize the unconscious bias against women. Most industries can’t do job interviews behind a curtain. It goes to show that we have so much bias in not recognizing talent and allowing it to express itself. Of course, no one wants to get a job because of their marginalization, you want to get the job because of your talent. But there are so many who don’t get the opportunity since they are marginalized, and there are those who actually appreciate others’ values, talent and voices.

Roles for women—have they improved since you first began in this business?

I think it’s still really challenging, there’s a lot of tropes that are repeated and revisited. Also for women of color, it’s extremely difficult to be represented. However, this year, we saw the first Asian-American female story to be told by a studio in 25 years [Crazy Rich Asians]. Latinos are even more poorly represented; that is something people aren’t being shown at all. But white women are the most represented of all the women and it’s a challenging thing to show a full humanity. So, I think there’s a lot to be done when it comes to giving more opportunities to other people, and allowing people from all types of experiences to tell their stories.

You have increasingly become more involved as a producer on the projects you star in. What do you love about that part of the job, and does it help to have a voice in productions when they become challenged, as was the case on Jane Got a Gun?

It’s nice to be a part of projects I believe in and can help shepherd, even if I’m not the director or writer. I’m still learning and I’m not one to claim something when I have so much to learn. With Jane Got a Gun, that started with a lot of genuine interest in the creative process, and turned into a harrowing experience for everyone involved. I don’t look at that as any sort of victory. It was very challenging and humbling, an experience where you learn how much you can be better and how much you still have to learn.

Will you direct again?

Yes, but I’m not sure what.

Has there ever been any talk of doing a sequel to your first breakout film Léon: The Professional, where we see a much older Mathilda?

There was a little bit of talk about that at one point, but I don’t have any plans to do that project.

Source: Deadline

Categories Films Interview Press Videos Vox Lux

Press: Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy on ‘Vox Lux’ and the Film’s Dark, Violent Opening

Director Brady Corbet‘s Vox Lux is like the warped, nasty sibling of A Star Is Born. The film starts, quite literally, with a bang, when teenager Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is the sole survivor of a school shooting. Footage of Celeste singing at a memorial service sweeps the nation, blasting the young girl into the pop-star stratosphere thanks to Jude Law‘s savvy talent manager. Flash-forward a decade or two and Celeste—now played by Natalie Portman, going all out for this role—is a Gaga-esque superstar, but the years in-between have sharpened her naive edges into something much more tragic. Vox Lux has been pretty divisive among critics, but I really dug it; like Celeste herself, the film is a wicked piece of work, but you have to admire its ambition.

Before Vox Lux‘s debut, I sat down with Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy to discuss the film. Check out what they had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about.

Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy:

  • Their thoughts while reading the script’s jarring opening for the first time.
  • How the film uses a lot of long takes where the camera is following the performers from behind.
  • Their perspective on the film’s line about pop music: “I don’t want people to have to think too much, I just want them to feel good.”
  • Why the film makes a point several times to show that Celeste has lost her hotel room key.
  • Balancing complex dance choreography with staying in character.
  • VOX LUX, A 20th Century Portrait, begins in 1999 when teenage Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a violent tragedy. After singing at a memorial service, Celeste transforms into a burgeoning pop star with the help of her songwriter sister (Stacy Martin) and talent manager (Jude Law). Celeste’s meteoric rise to fame dovetails with a personal and national loss of innocence, consequently elevating the young powerhouse to a new kind of celebrity: American icon, secular deity, global superstar.

    By 2017, adult Celeste (Natalie Portman) is mounting a comeback after a scandalous incident almost derailed her career. Touring in support of her sixth album, a compendium of sci-fi anthems entitled, “Vox Lux,” the indomitable, foul-mouthed pop savior must overcome her personal and familial struggles to navigate motherhood, madness and monolithic fame.

    Featuring original songs by Sia, an original score by Scott Walker and a transcendent performance by Natalie Portman – VOX LUX personifies the cult of celebrity and pummels the zeitgeist, it’s an original story about the forces that shape us, as individuals and nations.”

    Source: Collider

    Categories Films Interview Press Videos Vox Lux

    Press/Video: Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy on singing, screaming, and crying for Vox Lux

    Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy’s new film, Vox Lux, follows the rise of aspiring entertainer Celeste, from the ashes of a major national tragedy to pop superstardom. With the film in theaters today, we sat down with Portman and Cassidy about the film, and the demands of their performances.

    Source A.V. Club

    Press: Natalie Portman on Why She Prefers to Play ‘Broken, Fallible, and Faulted’ Characters Over Admirable Ones — TIFF
    Categories Films Interview Press Vox Lux

    Press: Natalie Portman on Why She Prefers to Play ‘Broken, Fallible, and Faulted’ Characters Over Admirable Ones — TIFF

    From “Vox Lux” to “Annihilation,” she doesn’t shy from challenging performances. Here, she explains why.

    Natalie Portman shows up in the second half of “Vox Lux” like a hurricane, bursting into writer-director Brady Corbet’s mesmerizing portrait of self-absorbed pop star and overtaking the story. As Celeste, a beloved singer who survived a mass shooting in her youth and has been corrupted by fame, Portman embodies the sheer lunacy of modern popular culture.

    At the Q&A for the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival, Portman described her performance as “this commodification of everything, where violence becomes something you sell, news becomes something you sell, even private life does.” She singled out a scandal in the movie’s plot that finds armed gunmen wearing masks from one of Celeste’s music videos in a terrorist attack. “What brings a terrorist and a pop star in alignment is that people paying attention to them makes them valuable and gives them power,” she said. “That kind of commodification and attention is what we’re living through right now. It’s our politics, it’s our culture.”

    It’s heady, challenging material — and not an easy sell. “Vox Lux” is one of the few major TIFF titles to arrive at the festival (after its Venice premiere) without North American distribution, and whoever picks it up will face a unique marketing challenge with Portman’s dyspeptic character. Major buyers attended the premiere, but largely agreed that Portman’s name brought the movie its sole commercial hook.

    At the afterparty, the actress told IndieWire that Celeste’s uneasy attributes drew her to the role, citing Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes’ “Woman Under the Influence” and “Opening Night” as key reference points. “Those are some of my favorite performances,” she said. “Those are movies I really admire and I always feel like those are the easiest characters to relate to because they’re so human. The more broken, the more fallible, the more faulted the person is, the more I think I can relate to them.”

    She added that she tends to stray from more likable types. “The hardest thing for me is characters you’re supposed to admire,” she said. “I don’t get it.” She laughed. “It doesn’t seem like a person to me,” she said. “I connect to someone who’s, like, having a hard time or not always the person they want to me, or messing up. That’s what feels human to me. It’s much more exciting for me to play.”

    Her filmography bears this out. “Vox Lux” plays like a spiritual sequel to “Black Swan,” but the character’s psychological duress as she contends with the power at her disposal suggests aspects of “Jackie” as well.

    Earlier this year, she starred in “Annihilation,” Alex Garland’s heady sci-fi thriller that put her at the center of a cryptic story where her motives were unclear throughout. The movie also faced tough commercial prospects: Paramount dumped the movie in theaters and sold international rights to Netflix. Portman shrugged off the potential risks of the two projects she’s tackled this year. “As an actor, you just start trying to help fulfill the director’s vision and really just try bringing everything you can creatively,” she said. “The rest is up to the business people. The most interesting thing for me is working with people who I feel push me creatively and intellectually, have great ideas, create a lot of freedom and the circumstances that you can really explore creatively.”

    In “Vox Lux,” Portman upped her game from her “Black Swan” days with another dazzling onstage performance, this one requiring her to sing. Celeste’s music (actually original compositions by Sia) is unveiled at the close of the movie in dynamic stage performance that finds Portman dancing and belting out songs in a giant stadium. It’s the first time she’s carried a tune onscreen since Woody Allen’s musical “Everyone Says I Love You” in 1996, though she said of that movie, “I don’t really consider that one a singing role.” For “Vox Lux,” she underwent very little preparation. “I didn’t really prepare,” she said. “Brady wanted to show that you didn’t really have to be very good to be someone like this. I was like, ‘Shouldn’t I, like practice? Shouldn’t I perform?’ He was like, ‘Nope!’” She did receive some counseling from a vocal coach. “It was really very much like a production, with the sound producers doing their magic,” she said.

    For the dance movies, she reunited with her husband, “Black Swan” choreographer Benjamin Millepied. “It was really fun because we got to prepare everything at home,” she said. As soon as the credits rolled on the movie, audiences started a guessing game to determine the real-life inspiration for Celeste’s character: Miley Cyrus? Lady Gaga? Portman declined to answer. “It’s definitely not based on one person,” she said. “There are little details taken from real people that I’m sure everyone will be able to intuit. I definitely stole little details that I found in different documentaries.”

    The jarring performance matches a movie designed to keep audiences off balance. Corbet’s constant use of long takes propel viewers into a lively environment of tense backroom strategy sessions and unnerving arguments as Celeste clashes with everyone in her orbit. Portman said she loved the approach, used almost exclusively in her scenes.

    “Long Steadicam takes are just the best as an actor,” she said at the Q&A. “We can just play. It’s not like little fragments. You kind of get to have the whole shape of a scene and go through it and try different things. …It felt very fun and alive in a way that’s very uncommon.” Corbet, standing by her said, chimed in. “Only really great actors love long takes,” he said.

    Source: Indiewire

    Press/Video: Natalie Portman Reveals Why ‘Vox Lux’ Is the Most Political Film She’s Ever Made
    Categories Films Interview Press Videos Vox Lux

    Press/Video: Natalie Portman Reveals Why ‘Vox Lux’ Is the Most Political Film She’s Ever Made

    Natalie Portman’s “Vox Lux” dazzled critics at the Venice Film Festival and continues to draw crowds in Canada. At our Variety Studio presented by AT&T at the Toronto Film Festival, the actress joined co-star Jude Law and director Brady Corbet to discuss the darkness behind all the glitter and glam of “Vox Lux.”

    After the Venice and TIFF premieres, Portman claimed that this was the most political film she’s ever made. The actress explained this statement to Variety exclusively.

    “Brady’s writing was such an accurate portrait of our moment, like nothing I’ve seen,” she said. “Where it’s not any sort of political message, or anything like that, but it has such a, ‘This is the culture and the political situation that we’re living in where everything is for sale.’ And how much attention we pay something, whether it’s a pop star, or a terrorist attack, gives it its importance and gives it its value. How much you can sell it is what makes it important.”

    Her character, Celeste, discovers fame at the age of 13, shortly after her school is attacked by a rogue shooter. The atrocity, and the song it inspired her to sing, rockets the young girl to stardom. Portman herself understands the glare of the early Hollywood spotlight, having starred alongside Jean Reno in the 1994 movie “Leon: The Professional.”

    “It is a weird thing to have a public persona and a private persona so young,” Portman said. “Because you’re kind of aware of keeping those separate. And there’s a weird splitting of self, ‘This is what other people can know about me, this is what’s valuable for me to have just for myself,’ and that can be strange, but important to keep separate. Which, this character doesn’t really do.”

    Source: Variety

    Press: Natalie Portman Didn’t Even Know She Executive-Produced Vox Lux
    Categories Films Interview Press Vox Lux

    Press: Natalie Portman Didn’t Even Know She Executive-Produced Vox Lux

    Actor-turned-director Brady Corbet’s devilishly entertaining Vox Lux premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday to a strangely polarized reaction. Some were delighted by the film, which tracks the rise and attempted reboot of a glittery, Lady Gaga-esque diva; others walked out of the press screening, which was met with scattered boos. Everyone agreed, though, that nobody could fault the 35-mm. musical drama with a lack of ambition.

    Divided into two chapters, the film follows Celeste (Raffey Cassidy in part one), a sweet and musically gifted 14-year-old who survives a school shooting reminiscent of Columbine and parlays her newfound notoriety into music-biz stardom. When we pick up with her in part two, now played by Natalie Portman, Celeste has slugged it out atop the pop charts for the past 15 years, with all the scars and addictions to show for it—and an arsenal of all-new tunes by songwriter extraordinaire Sia.

    On the day she’s meant to kick off her comeback tour, news footage emerges of terrorists wearing Celeste-inspired garb while killing innocents. Violence gave the singer her name, and now threatens to take it away.

    We spoke with Portman and Corbet about the film, their respective careers, and why directing is like sex, shortly before Vox Lux’s red carpet premiere on Tuesday.

    Vanity Fair: Natalie, I saw that you have an executive-producer credit on the film, as well as an acting credit. What has your relationship with this project been like over the years?

    Natalie Portman: I do? [Laughs] That’s awesome! I didn’t have a relationship—I guess that’s something my agents added in, and I didn’t realize. [Laughs]

    Brady Corbet: When you’re putting a film together, you always have to start with the cast—the film wouldn’t exist without Natalie’s participation, Jude [Law]’s participation, Sia’s participation. And so I would assume that was the producers’ reasoning. But I don’t know; I didn’t negotiate the deal.

    Portman: [Still laughing] That’s hysterical! I totally didn’t know that.

    Raffey Cassidy plays the teenage Celeste in the first half of the film, and Celeste’s teenage daughter in part two. Did you work with her to develop your shared character?

    Portman: Not really. It was guided by Brady, because everything was fast and furious, shooting-wise. It was a bold choice of Brady’s that was really interesting, because it’s a constant reminder of the first half of the movie and what that character’s been through and that story, next to what’s kind of a different person 15 years later. It sort of reminds you of the past that brought her to where she is. Also, I think Raffey is such a strong actress.

    Corbet: I think the idea is that Natalie is having a dialogue with herself, in a way. And yet it’s someone who has advanced a little bit, is a bit further along than she was at that age, 15 years [prior]. The idea was that the first half of the movie is minimalism, and the second half is maximalism. So you have this character who is like a seed in part one, and is not a fully realized character until part two.

    Portman: She’s like a man-eating plant in part two!

    When we return to Celeste, she’s spent the past 15 years in the public spotlight. You’ve been there even longer than that. Has the nature of fame changed in recent years?

    Portman: It’s changed a lot. In some ways, it feels a lot more invasive, because of things like camera phones and the Internet, which did not exist when I was first starting, of course. But, also, it feels a lot more dissipated, because there’s just so much information and so much out there that every little bit seems less valuable and less important. So it’s also become more relaxed, in a way.

    How did you get into the mind of a pop star?

    Portman: I watched a lot of documentaries. I don’t want to reveal them, because I don’t want people to think it’s based on particular people, which it’s not. The writing was so specific and inventive that I don’t want people to say, “Oh, it’s a mix of this-meets-that,” or whatever. I watched all of them. [Laughs] All the documentaries about pop stars.

    What about the music? What was your collaboration like with Sia?

    Corbet: I needed so much material, and so basically we mined through tons and tons of musical ideas—unreleased material, etc.—and mixed and matched, putting lyrics and music together to make the soundtrack. So some of these songs, especially the songs in the first part of the movie, were written a long time ago. And we tried as much as we could, because sometimes we had trouble recovering the elements, because they were written and produced a long time ago. But we tried to keep as much [of] the original production as possible. And then the contemporary songs were, you know, contemporary.

    Did you go to Sia and say, “I have this character. I have this movie. What can you do?”

    Corbet: Absolutely. Yes. I went and sat down and listened to many, many, many different songs, or parts of songs, or demos. And I started to identify something that would function really well for the character. But, then, everything was reproduced and the vocals were recorded, or in some cases re-recorded [gestures towards Portman].

    Portman: It was really fun and surprising to just see what they could do in the studio—how you can layer your voice. The whole process was completely new for me. We recorded with Sia’s people, so that was really fun. You’ve got the headset on, and you’re in this recording studio . . .

    Celeste survives a school shooting. She becomes the face of it, and that fuels her rise to fame. Has it been surreal watching reality imitate fiction this year, seeing the Parkland survivors chart a similar course?

    Corbet: Here’s the thing: the film is not that prescient. The writing’s been on the wall for this stuff for forever, right? I mean, we have a reality star in the White House. Parkland is just one of the many, many, many tragedies that seems like we’re repeating on a weekly basis. I wasn’t more cognizant of the Parkland attack than I was everything else that’s happened this year, or San Bernardino a couple years ago. [However, with the Parkland kids,] it seems like maybe things are getting healthier. We finally are giving a face to the victims, as opposed to only the attackers.

    Celeste loses control of her image in the second half of the film, after terrorists use visuals from her music videos while committing unspeakable acts. As film artists, do you worry about people appropriating your work and image?

    Portman: I don’t know if that’s a fear in my life that I think about a lot. But it is something interesting for the character—to have her external perception so out of her hands. She obviously wants to control the narrative a little bit more.

    Corbet: I think any time you’re portraying acts of violence on-screen, it can be argued that they immediately become iconic. I was mostly focused on doing something that was quite banal. I tried to make sure that it was not an iconic act of violence in the film . . . The creative process is something very insular, so, really, all you can focus on is doing the work as well as you can, and try to do it with integrity, which is what I tried to do. I’m not particularly worried about there being any acts of violence that are associated with this film.

    Both of you began your careers as actors, and have moved toward directing. How does such a background help you as filmmakers?

    Corbet: Hopefully, it makes us especially sensitive to whatever everyone who’s in front of the camera is going through. The more radical and dramatic the material, the more vulnerable it is for the cast. So, hopefully, it made us very patient and understanding. Every time a day player comes in—even if they only have two or three lines—they come with so much responsibility and stress because they don’t know everyone; they’re not familiar with the group. I’ve been in that position many times, where I’ve come in and just have one or two scenes in the movie. So I especially felt for people like that, and so I think we achieved something that was even better than if I had been not patient and not understanding.

    Portman: I think it’s lucky to come as an actor to directing. Mike Nichols always used to say to me that directing is like sex—you don’t know how anyone else does it. And you look at other people and just kind of imagine, “oh, they must be really good at it!” [Laughs] As actors, you know how everyone else does it, cause you’ve had sex with all them! [Laughs] Obviously not actually had sex, but you’ve worked with all of them. You’ve had the experience working them, of course, so you know how everyone does it.

    What lessons will you take from your first experience as a director, now that you’re beginning to work on your second film?

    Portman: I think you [better] know the editing-room experience, of seeing what you are missing, or what you wish you had done. I imagine—because I haven’t done my second yet—that that will be a big change. Also, the music—I feel like I would start [working on] the music much earlier. I feel like music happens so late in the process, and I realized that it takes a long time to find the right stuff, and you almost want to shoot to music sometimes. I just realized that for the next time I would do it, I would want it much earlier in the process, rather than something to just add on at the end.

    What can you tell us about your next project, which is about the relationship between Dear Abby and Ann Landers?

    Portman: It’s very, very early. We’re still working on the script, and I think it’s going to be a while. I’m really interested in how you can become your own worst enemy, and how identical twins [are] kind of a personification of fighting yourself.

    Source: Variety