Natalie Portman: Sexism now is much worse than it was in the 60s

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Kayleigh Dray
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It’s no secret that there is a severe lack of gender diversity in Hollywood; over the past few months alone, talented actors such as Emily Blunt and Billie Piper have slammed the industry’s sexist undercurrent, demanding more great roles for women to portray on screen.

Now Natalie Portman has spoken out, arguing that there are even fewer female roles in film today than there were 50 years ago.

Speaking to Vulture, she explained that her recent distance from Hollywood was a conscious decision; in fact, her recent career break had been determined by the fact that there “are not great female roles” anymore.

She went on to explain that her research for her role as former FLOTUS Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie has left her feeling nostalgic for an earlier era. An era which, while undoubtedly difficult for women, at least gave them visibility on screen with strong female leads.

Films from the ’50s and ’60s “have such strong female roles all the time,” she explained, mentioning Sunset Boulevard as a prime example. “Even if they’ll make the occasional sexist comment, they still have a central woman character who has a personality.

“Now I feel like movies are all about white men and then you get a couple that happen to be about women.”

Portman, who is currently pregnant with her second child, has decided to speak up and take action against sexism in the movies.

She’s set to star in another biopic, this time about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in On the Basis of Sex, but she had a few strict measures in place before she got involved.

In fact, the 35-year-old insisted the project was put on hold until the right female director was found.

“With the issues of gender discrimination in Hollywood right now, how could we not do that?” she said.

However there’s no denying that she’s got Jackie (a film that’s already generating Oscars buzz) as her most important role to date.

“It felt like the most dangerous,” she told Deadline. “Everyone knows her or has an idea of her… we tried to get to some things that people could get past and believe I was Jackie.”

She continued: “We noticed when looking at the existing film and audio tape of Jackie, her voice and presence were very different when it was a public interview. She got a lot more coy and shy. There were a lot of small details…

“When you know you’re a symbol, people see you as something from the outside. How can you maintain your humanity?”

Portman concluded: “She was a mannequin for a lot of people.”

Jackie, directed by Pablo Larrain, will arrive to UK cinemas in January 2017.


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.