Fans’ childhoods and George Lucas’ dignity weren’t the only victims of the Star Wars prequels, apparently. Natalie Portman, who played Queen Padmé Amidala, says that the infamous films nearly ruined her career.
Portman first starred in 1999’s The Phantom Menance off the back of her debut in Luc Besson’s Leon at the age of 13. She played the doomed mother of twins Luke and Leia Skywalker opposite Hayden Christensen’s Anakin until 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Yet while the films were a financial success, they were panned by fans and critics alike, and tainted Portman’s reputation among directs.
“Everyone thought I was a horrible actress,” she told New Yorker magazine. “I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me”.
Luckily, the late director Mike Nichols not only cast her in his 2001 stage production of The Seagull, but, “wrote a letter to [late director] Anthony Minghella and said ‘put her in Cold Mountain, I vouch for her’. And then Anthony passed me on to Tom Tykwer, who passed me on to the Wachowskis [who cast her as Evey Hammond in V For Vendetta]”.
The rest, of course, is history, with Portman now being a major Hollywood star after roles in Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan and, more recently, as Jane Foster in Marvel’s Thor films.
Star Wars: Episode VII newcomers John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are, of course, taking a similar gamble to Natalie Portman. Although the prospect of The Force Awakens being quite as dodgy as The Phantom Menace does seem unlikely.