'V for Vendetta': A Provocative Turn for Portman Natalie Portman stars in the new movie V for Vendetta. She says the project interested her because of its subversive and provocative ideas questioning such modern-day labels as "terrorist."

'V for Vendetta': A Provocative Turn for Portman

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Natalie Portman is currently starring in the dystopian thriller V FOR VENDETTA. It's set in Britain, in the future, when the country is in the grips of a fascist, homophobic, Islamaphobic regime. A masked man called V blows up the old Bailey and the Houses of Parliament. Portman's character, Evey Hammond, becomes involved in the plot.

This movie was supposed to open last November around Guy Fawkes Day, Britain's commemoration of the so-called gun powder plot. But real life bombings in London dictated some delay. To say that Natalie Portman is the human face of V FOR VENDETTA is an understatement. Her co-star, Hugo Weaving is always behind that weird, clownish mask, and the Tormentor, who famously shaves Portman's head when she is imprisoned, stands in the shadows.


HUGO WEAVING: I am instructed you that you have been convicted by special Tribunal, and that unless you are ready to offer your cooperation, you are to be executed. Do you understand what I'm telling you?


WEAVING: Are you ready to cooperate?


WEAVING: Very well. Escort Ms. Hammond back to her cell. Arrange a detail of six men and take her out behind the chemical shell and shoot her.


SIEGEL: Why did Natalie Portman, who is not quite 25, and probably has her pick of any movie, pick V FOR VENDETTA?

PORTMAN: Well, I was really excited at the prospect of making this sort of big, Hollywood action movie that has really subversive ideas in it and provocative ideas in it. I mean, the goal of movies for me is obviously, primarily to entertain, but also to make people feel something or think about something. And I think this accomplishes all of those.

SIEGEL: They're kind of big, subversive ideas here, that there is an active resistance that might include blowing up the Houses of Parliament.


SIEGEL: Subversive, provocative? What do you think about it?

PORTMAN: Well, I think it raises a lot of questions. Because the hero is labeled as a terrorist, it obviously brings this sort of questioning of our modern day labels, because you do sort of feel the justice of the hero's cause, and then his methods, because they are similar to methods that we may abhor in our modern world, it makes us question the sort of alignment between cause and means to express those political beliefs and the use of violence to express political beliefs.

SIEGEL: Are you ready for an onslaught of conservative commentators accusing you of moral relativism and getting soft on political violence?

PORTMAN: I think that all comments are welcome, and I would love people to object to this and raise debate. I think anything that would leave everyone with the same reaction is the least interesting kind of art to put out there. The best kind of art is something that's going to provoke completely different reactions and feelings. My experience so far has been that they're all strong reactions. So that's exciting for me. And I think these are issues that should be openly talked about, and what better way to inspire that than through a piece of entertainment.

SIEGEL: Natalie, you have been in the public eye since you were 11 or something like that, yes?

PORTMAN: Right. I made my first film when I was 11. It was released when I was 12 or 13, I don't remember, THE PROFESSIONAL. Yeah. So I have relatively been — it's not to the extent that the public eye exists today, I imagine, because this is pre-Us Weekly and all of those things. So I was left alone to party in private, I suppose, in my teenage years, unlike a lot of the young women today.

SIEGEL: There's a new age that begins with Us Weekly?

PORTMAN: Yes. Well, I think it really infringes upon especially young actors and actresses who are just starting out now, you see pictures of their birthday parties. You know. I just saw a picture of Dakota Fanning's birthday party or something, and I was like, you know what, I didn't have to deal with that when I was 12. So it was definitely different.

SIEGEL: You're addressing a very specific question that I was actually going to ask you about, which was Us Weekly, frankly. And that is when we see somebody taking pictures of Dakota Fanning's birthday party for Us Weekly, I assume the family thinks that's okay. They don't just burst into your life, do they?

PORTMAN: I have no idea. I mean, I have not had that experience, but I imagine that they do burst into some people's lives.

SIEGEL: Really?


SIEGEL: So do you consider it a success to be pictured in Us Weekly or you lost that week when you're in Us Weekly?

PORTMAN: Yeah, I consider it a loss that week.

SIEGEL: A loss.

PORTMAN: I guess in some ways you do have to court that sort of attention, that it's not necessarily something, because it certainly hasn't been an intrusive part of my life.

SIEGEL: It has not.

PORTMAN: I don't know if that's because I'm boring to that crowd and they don't seek me out, or if it is because of personal choices, but I don't find it too challenging to stay out of that on the whole.

SIEGEL: Well, this raises another production that you were in recently. You made a video for Saturday Night Live. This is your rap video.


Unidentified Man: We're sitting here today with film star Natalie Portman.


Man: So, Natalie, what's a day in the life of Natalie Portman like?

PORTMAN: Do you really want to know?

Man: Please, tell us.

PORTMAN: I don't see (expletive) on that yak and a curve, and doing 120, getting (expletive) while I'm swerving.

SETH MYERS: Damn, Natalie, you a crazy chick.

PORTMAN: You shut the (expletive) up and suck my (expletive).


SIEGEL: Now, the joke here, it's very, very funny. It's extremely funny.

PORTMAN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: The joke is --

PORTMAN: The hard core.

SIEGEL: You're wild in the streets in the rap video.

PORTMAN: Yes, exactly. I'm violent and promiscuous and --

SIEGEL: Foul mouthed.

PORTMAN: Foul mouthed and doing lots of drugs.

SIEGEL: So what about the perception that you think people — which people do have a view that you're a good kid, and you went to Harvard, and you're bright and articulate. And you don't seem to be in Us Weekly every week getting married and divorced. True? This is who you are?

PORTMAN: Yeah. Obviously, because, I guess, media like to make types that they can fit me into, the good type and other people get to be the bad type. And that's been a blessing for me because I think it has protected me from this intrusive interest in my personal exploits. But at the same time, if you compared me to my university peers in terms of the level of seriousness and eloquence and all of that, I might end up on a different side of the spectrum.

SIEGEL: You're saying that Harvard might be a faster track here than Us Weekly.

PORTMAN: Yeah. It's all relative.

SIEGEL: It's all relative. It's all relative. So when do we see you next? What's the next thing that you're working on?

PORTMAN: I finished a film with Milos Foreman called GOYA'S GHOST that will probably be released later this year, although they don't have a date yet. And I'm about to start a children's film called MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM, which is very exciting. Dustin Hoffman is playing the title character, the owner of the magic toy store.

SIEGEL: Natalie Portman, thank you very much for coming into talk with us.

PORTMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

SIEGEL: Portman's latest film is called V FOR VENDETTA. It opens nationwide today.

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