Natalie Portman’s Toughest Role Yet: Recreating Jacqueline Kennedy In ‘Jackie’

Natalie Portman, born Natalie Hershlag in 1981, is a highly versatile actress who is known for playing unique and intense characters.

The Black Swan actress is very talented when it comes to developing an on-screen character and bringing that character to life, but it was natural for the versatile actress to feel a little uneasy when she was asked to portray Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, an upcoming biographical drama based on the former First Lady. In her previous films, Natalie Portman had never been in a situation that required her to accurately recreate a legendary figure.

Portraying the former First Lady was an enormous challenge for the actress because Jacqueline Kennedy is one of history’s most famous personalities, and audiences have high expectations from actors who are cast to play famous people. Actors depicting famous figures are generally closely observed regarding the accuracy with which they play the role, and it’s crucial that the actor study every gesture and expression of their real-life counterpart. According to People magazine, Natalie Portman spoke candidly about the nervousness she felt while preparing for her on-screen role playing Jackie Kennedy.

“I never really thought of myself as a great imitator … I was just trying to get to something that people could get past and believe I was Jackie, and then you always have yourself in there too, inevitably.”

Fortunately, her fears did not discourage the Oscar winner from accepting the challenging role, and the No Strings Attached actress decided to confront her fears by thoroughly preparing for her role.

Natalie Portman was acutely aware that the role required her to represent the many dimensions of Jacqueline Kennedy known to the public. After the tragic death of her husband, Jacqueline Kennedy might have been perceived as the young widow who picked herself up and moved on with her life. However, before tragedy befell her, the former First Lady was a mother and a wife, as well as a woman who was wounded by the never-ending rumors of her husband’s romantic affairs.

Moreover, Portman had to portray the former First Lady as a person who was trying to understand how she fit into a complicated world; a world which was shattered by her husband’s sudden death. According to Business Insider, the actress spoke about her preparations for the challenging role.

“I read every biography I could get my hands on. And we recreated a lot of the White House tour for the film, so that was helpful to see how she walks and how she moves and her facial expressions.”

Natalie Portman perfected her acting to portray the personality-switching side of Jacqueline Kennedy because it was well known that Jacqueline Kennedy had different personas for different occasions. For instance, she was a serious person while carrying out her duties within the confines of the White House, and at other times she was a happy fashion icon who enjoyed her social life.

Jacqueline Kennedy was also quite adept at modulating her voice depending on the occasion. Her voice was perceived as quite girly during public interviews, while the same voice appeared deeper when she was interviewed in her home. Natalie Portman worked extremely hard to get into her character by learning to accurately project the former First Lady’s voice.

Her brilliant performance in the movie Jackie was critically acclaimed at both the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. According to Rolling Stone magazine, Natalie Portman, who acted under the direction of Pablo Larrain, may well become a strong contender for Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her role in Jackie.

[Featured Image by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]