Natalie Portman Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Taryn Davies
Published: April 21, 2016

Natalie Portman finally sees the UK release of her new film Jane Got a Gun this week, in which she starred and co-produced, and after many setbacks, we can only imagine she’s happy to finally get it on the big screen.

For the release of the film, we decided to share some little-known facts about the Oscar-winning actress.

Family and background

Her full name is Neta-Lee Hershlag and later became Natalie Portman. She has a Jewish heritage, and she has a dual citizenship of the United States and Israel. Her grandparents lost most of their family members in the Holocaust including her paternal great-grandparents who were killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Portman was born in Israel and spent the first three years of her life there before moving to America. She really loves the language, which she speaks in her directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness. "The language was really what [drew me to the project, based on the Amos Ozbook], his obsession with words and the way words are connected in Hebrew, which has this incredible poetry and magic," she says.

Not only is she fluent in Hebrew and English, but she also speaks really good Spanish, German, French and Japanese.

The beginning of her career

Natalie was discovered in a pizza parlour when she was just 9 years old.

Natalie has taken dancing lessons since she is 4 years old. She has also trained ballet, jazz, and tap dancing. She continues to take ballet classes now, which is one of the reasons why she was cast for her role in Black Swan.

As a young girl, she was an understudy for the lead character in the off-Broadway show, “Ruthless,” alongside Britney Spears. They still keep in touch and even threw a New Year’s Eve party together in New York City.

Natalie Portman facts you probably didn't know

Natalie Portman Oscars 2011
Helga Esteb/

The role that changed it all

Leon: The Professional was Natalie’s first film role and thanks to her incredible skills it was the role that changed it all, originally though, she was turned down for the role of Mathilda because she was too young, but she was called back when the search expanded.

She was 11-years-old when she was cast from a group of more than 2000 girls. For her call-back, she performed the scene where Mathilda laments the loss of her brother. Luc Besson (director) was so impressed (Mathilda breaks down during the scene), he gave her the role.

She said she instantly knew she wanted the role when she read the script, which moved her to tears, but her parents took some convincing. They thought she was too young for the role and she says the fought for a while about the situation.

The only reason she was able to take the role was because her parents set up a strict agreement with Besson, which included the use of fake cigarettes during film and she wasn't allowed to inhale any of them. They also demanded her character would quit smoking during the film, which happens after Leon shouts at her for smoking. Later you see her throw an unfinished cigarette away.


Portman put her education before her career, taking time out to study in Harvard. She graduated with honours with an A.B. in psychology, she's previously said that she's rather be smart than a movie star.

Black Swan

Black Swan, the film that earned her her first Best Actress Oscar was certainly a pivotal point in her career and not just professionally. She began dating ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied in 2009. The couple met whilst filming of the movie, for which he was a photographer. The pair went on to get married and have a son together Aleph Portman-Millepied.

Natalie Portman facts you probably didn't know

Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied

The roles she missed out on

Natalie almost joined the Marvel Universe in a different role to the one she got, she was considered as Black Widow. Another superhero movie role she almost got was Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.

She also turned down a role in The Horse Whisperer instead to take part on Broadway in The Diary of Anne Frank.

She’s been living in Paris since November

She says the biggest difference to all the times she has visited over the years, is the fact you see how culturally different it really is.

The future

Natalie desires to become a doctor. She says that when she grows up she will abandon acting as she wants to follow her father's footsteps, who is a fertility specialist.

Natalie Portman has no TV

Since moving to Paris she has no TV in her home. But she still watches her favourite shows like Transparent and Broad City on her computer.

Random facts about Natalie Portman

Before Natalie was cast in the Star Wars prequel series, she admitted she had never seen the original trilogy, admitting she didn't know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek.

Her comedic influences are Lily Tomlin and Diane Keaton. She professed her love for the two in an interview, she thinks Keaton can do pretty much anything.

She shaved her head for V for Vendetta (2005) and worked with a vocal coach to learn how to speak with an English accent.

The actress was a vegetarian for 20 years before she became vegan, but she went back to vegetarianism when she was pregnant, then after the birth resumed her veganism.

Natalie Portman facts you probably didn't know

Natalie Portman Cannes 2005
Denis Makarenko/