Natalie portman tells 'a tale of love and darkness'

By Lindsey Bahr in Beverly hills, California ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-09-10 07:17:45

For years, she would come back to the script every so often, a little older and with more perspective on life to add. Then her husband, the French dancer Benjamin Millepied, got a job in Paris. Knowing that a move was imminent, it became a now or never moment for Portman. So they packed up their lives, moved to Israel for five months and just did it.

"I had heard so many stories my whole childhood of my grandparents coming from Eastern Europe to Israel and then Palestine and the creation of the state. It's such a crazy moment in history," Portman says. "It colored my imagination so much growing up, hearing those stories and thinking about what that must have been like to come from cold dark Europe to the bright, dusty, hot desert of the Middle East."

She made the edgy decision to do the film entirely in Hebrew to create a sense of authenticity with the period.

On set, Portman tried to create a family energy. She was 11 when she got her first role in The Professional. Amir Tessler, who plays the young Oz, was eight.

"I've been working on sets my whole life," she says. "I was a kid on set, and we had a kid starring in the film so I really wanted it to be a positive environment."

She felt lucky, too, that she made the film in Israel, where she thinks because both men and women serve in the army, that they're used to having both genders in positions of authority and respect that.

With over 25 years working in front of the camera, Portman behind the camera drew on learnings from directors she's worked with - Darren Aronofsky's eagerness to hear ideas from anyone and Terrence Malick's unconventional "paint from life" methods among them. But in the end, she knew she had to make this her own.

Portman has just moved back to Los Angeles with her husband and son, Aleph, and is looking forward to this new chapter where she'll continue acting and hopefully directing.

She's become more invested in having a connection with the filmmakers she's choosing to work with than she was earlier in her career.

"You're taking time away from your family instead of like just going away to work and otherwise you'd be home reading a book," she says. "The stakes are a lot higher."

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