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Natalie Portman-The Shy Superstar

Molly Mahoney

Natalie Portman as Molly Mahoney in <i>Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium</i>. (Photo: ©Rafy for Walden Media, LLC and Mandate Films, LLC.)
Natalie Portman as Molly Mahoney in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. (Photo: ©Rafy for Walden Media, LLC and Mandate Films, LLC.)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Natalie Portman via telephone. We talked about Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, which she had just finished filming. We also spoke about being an actress, Harvard, and other things.

Ethan White: How was it to work with Dustin Hoffman?

Natalie Portman: He was really, really fun. You visited on the set a little, right? You probably saw that he always makes it like he’s playing, and he really has so much fun with everything he does, and it makes it fun to be around. He’s always making jokes and telling stories and when he acts he does it with every bit of his heart.

EW: Are there any similarities between your character, Molly, and yourself?

Portman: Well, I'm the same age. I just turned 25 also, and so I think there are a lot of similar things that you go through. Like sort of really realizing that you’re an adult now, I mean I think I’ll always feel like a kid in a way, but you have to accept that you're becoming a grown-up too and take responsibility for things.

EW: Speaking of being a kid, what was your favorite toy as a kid?

Portman: My favorite toy. . . that’s a hard one. . . I loved my Barbies, I used to cut their hair all the time, give them haircuts. I loved playing Scrabble.

EW: What did you like best about the set?

Portman: [The toy store] was awesome! I just thought that the toy store was so special because it was one of those places where every time you go you discover something new. You know we spent three months in there everyday seeing the same room, and still I could go in and find a new toy or a new little thing that I didn’t notice. It was really fun in that way.

EW: How was it working with Zach Helm?

Portman: He was so fun to work with. He wrote the script so he knows the story really, really well. It's also part of him, you know, he does magic, he’s very alive, he sort of has a lot of childlike aspects to him too. So it was really nice to be around him. He’s really, really smart. He’s really fun.

EW: Have you ever worked with a first-time director before, other than Zach Helm?

Portman: Yeah, I did. The director for V for Vendetta and the director for Garden State were both first-time directors. It's always really fun because they're just sort of learning, and you get to learn together.

EW: What was it like shaving your head for V for Vendetta?

Portman: It was really, really fun, and I guess a lot of boys know this because a lot of boys shave their heads all the time. It’s so soft and nice to touch afterwards. But everyone ends up petting you, and it's such a nice thing to have people playing with your head all day.

EW: What were you like when you were 12?

Portman: At 12, I was never shy; I liked putting on shows and stuff. I’m much more shy now. I was working already. I turned 12 while I was doing my first movie, The Professional. I was really outgoing. I read a lot. I really liked reading. 

EW: What was your favorite book when you were 12?

Portman: When I was 12, I really liked The Bridge To Terabithia. I also really liked reading the Babysitter’s Club; I read like 250 books in that series.

EW: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Portman: I’m doing a small part in a movie called Blueberry Nights.

EW: Where are you shooting that?

Portman: In Nevada.

EW: If you weren’t an actress, what would you be doing?

Portman: Hmm. . . that's a hard question. . . I don't know, maybe a travel writer?!

EW: What do you do when you're between projects?

Portman: I spend time with my friends and my family because all of the movies that we do, we have to work away from home. So I guess that I spend so much time away from home that when I'm off I want to come back and be with my friends and my family.

EW: What is the hardest part of being an actress?

Portman: Probably that you're moving around all the time. It's also really fun. It's like a gypsy; you're always moving around, you don't get to have a stable home life.

EW: If you hadn't been discovered in a pizza shop, do you think you still would have become an actress?

Portman: I don't know. I mean it's something I wonder all the time. I have no idea. It's hard to tell if you would seek the same dream if you didn't get to accomplish it. Which dreams we throw away, and which dreams we keep forever? It's sort of hard to tell which are which.

EW: Why did you choose Harvard?

Portman: Well actually, my grandfather was a professor in Israel, a professor in economics. And he was a visiting professor at a lot of schools in the United States. I applied to schools. It was right before he died, and I asked him "Where should I go?" And he said Harvard, without hesitation. It seems silly, but that’s how I went. I mean, I really like it [Harvard], and I visited it as well. And I obviously applied there before that, but that was sort of the deciding factor.

EW: Do you plan on using your psychology degree?

Portman: Well I think I use it in acting all the time because you know acting is always trying to figure out why and how people do the things they do. And that’s exactly what psychology is. So both of them are sort of imagining other people’s lives. It's really helpful for my work and for everyday personal relationships too.

About the Author

Ethan White is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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