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Natalie Portman's 9 Greatest Moments

Natalie Portman in Your Highness
Universal

Given Natalie Portman's résumé, which includes playing everything from coquettish teenager to epileptic liar to damaged ballerina, it's really not all that shocking to find her move on to "archer in Medieval stoner comedy" in "Your Highness."

Regardless of its success, the 29-year-old actress is at a career peak right now, having just won Best Actress at this year's Academy Awards for her role as a troubled ballet dancer in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," and has no less than four major movies releasing (or released) this year.

But it's just the latest in a series of roles dating back more than 15 years that have made Portman "America's Girlfriend." To wit, a look back.

9. 'V for Vendetta' (2006)

James McTeigue's adaptation of Alan Moore's classic 1980s graphic novel polarized audiences and critics alike, though many lauded Portman's role as Evey Hammond, which saw the actress pull off both her hair and a convincing English accent. The comic book nerds called "Heresy!," but in the era of playing it safe, it was refreshing to see a film marry action-filled, commercial intentions with subversion against a thinly-veiled totalitarian regime. Spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, guys.

8. 'Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis' (2009)

Zach Galifianakis' hysterical faux-public access celebrity talk show has yielded numerous brilliant moments, but Portman's appearance ranks as one of the best. Starting off with "What is your phone number?," the mock-interview only gets more awkward from there, culminating with the host asking about parts besides the head that were shaved for "V for Vendetta."

7. 'The Professional' (1994)

In retrospect, it's hard to believe Luc Besson's story of a girl whose family is murdered by mobsters and subsequently befriends her hitman neighbor was Portman's debut film role. As Mathilda, the actress transcends the phrase "child actor" and easily holds her own against Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and Danny Aiello. The making of an eventual Oscar winner starts here.

6. 'Your Highness' (2011)

After 2007's "Hotel Chevalier," Wes Anderson's 13-minute short film featuring nude scenes of Portman and co-star Jason Schwartzman, the actress swore off future nude scenes, distressed about the unwanted attention taking off your clothes brings. But in David Gordon Green's "Your Highness," Portman has backpedaled somewhat from that promise, with a disrobing that surely broke fanboy screen-grab records late last year with the release of the red-band trailer alone.

5. 'Beautiful Girls' (1996)

While Ted Demme's ensemble romantic comedy centers on a high school reunion in a New England town, it's the 13-year-old neighbor of one of the returning men that upstages them all. As the precocious, self-proclaimed "old soul" Marty, Portman exhibits a range and vulnerability usually reserved for actresses twice her age and somehow makes the creepy Lolita subplot with Timothy Hutton somewhat endearing.

4. 'Saturday Night Live' Rap (2006)

Playing off her "Ms. Perfect" image, the actress answers the question "What's a day in the life of Natalie Portman like?" with a two-minute, obscenity-laced gangsta rap extolling drinking, fighting and random sex. At least she has a sweet, inspiring message for all the children that look up to her.

3. 'Closer' (2004)

Portman first dispelled the Good Girl myth, however, with her role as Alice in Mike Nichols' "Closer," a stripper caught in a bizarre four-way relationship with her love (Jude Law), his lover (Julia Roberts) and her husband (Clive Owen.) It's complicated. Amid numerous stellar acting performances, we know which clip you want to see. Are you not entertained?

2. 'Garden State' (2004)

Before "The Shins will change your life" became shorthand for fey, indie posturing, Portman could be seen wooing Zach Braff in a doctor's office with the group's hit "New Slang." Portman's earnest portrayal of an epileptic and compulsive liar helped establish her a legitimate adult actress, and her hamster eulogy remains the most heartfelt hamster eulogy in film.

1. 'Black Swan' (2010)

After her Best Actress win at the Golden Globes, Portman is all but assured the same award at next month's Academy Awards. Why? It's not just that Portman spent more than five hours a day for a year preparing for her role as a tormented ballet dancer preparing for her lead in "Swan Lake." It's that the actress transcended the mere act of portrayal into complete embodiment and showed the lengths one will go to achieve perfection amid genius, delusion and sacrifice.

[Originally published January 19, 2011.]

 

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