Prequel Trilogy,  The Phantom Menace

Natalie Portman says kabuki influenced her performance as Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace


Natalie Portman praises George Lucas and talks about kabuki’s influence on her performance as Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace (at 1:45).

Source: Vanity Fair

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.” (Wikipedia).


      • Marshall

        I was just thinking about how some people single out her character for “cultural appropriation” because of the Asian influences in her costumes. As a mixed-race person, I have issues with that term.

    • Cryogenic

      Star Wars is one long nougat-mural layer-cake goodness of cultural appropriation — filmic, music, bookic, historic, you name-ic. That eclectic fusion and frisson, the endlessly delightful back-and-forth of its rhythmic borrowing (some of it “hiding in plain sight”, much of it deftly interwoven), is what made it so great. By literally becoming “more than the sum of its components”, Star Wars catapulted itself into the collective imagination, assiduously combining disparate strands of the human experience into a thrilling new synthesis: a macroscopic ekstasis.

      Ironically, due to concerns of having the millstone of “cultural appropriation” thrust around its neck, the new copyright holders of Star Wars (and, ironically, the masters of cultural appropriation) have blanched it clean of much of its former integrationist brio — reducing the artwork from its grandiloquent “Library Of Alexandria” magnificence, stacked with epic brilliance, to a lone and weary lighthouse (next to a green-milk-dispensing monstrosity) on a ratty, battered shore. Only dull and dismal Jedi Knights are to be found in this degraded tapestry.

  • Will Reardon

    Natalie also credited the late Mike Nichols for saving her film career and has never attended a Star Wars Celebration.

    According to Chris Taylor’s book, her mistreatment of co-star, Keira Knightly, is why Lucas reduced Natalie’s screen time in Revenge of the Sith.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Joe:

        Will appears to be referring to some off-hand remarks made on a page in the book “How Star Wars Conquered The Universe: The Past, Present, And Future Of A Multibillion Dollar Franchise”, by Chris Taylor, first published in 2014. A good read, but a little skewed to the negative. The author is an avowed fan of the originals.

        Portman appears to have something of a hot-and-cold regard for her time spent making the prequels. And some people have alleged she is difficult to work with. J.W. Rinzler himself gestured very loosely in that direction in one of his blog entries published under his now-deleted online-memoir series “The Rise And Fall Of Star Wars” from last year. Though he seemed to indicate even greater difficulty/hostility emanating from Ewan McGregor (Rinzler, of course, was on-set for ROTS as the hired scribe tasked with documenting the making of the final prequel).

        Note: Rinzler went back and revised/edited out his earlier remarks toward Natalie and Ewan shortly after publishing that entry — and shortly before pulling his entire blog series. Whatever bad behaviour Ewan and Natalie (and/or any of the other co-stars/actors/actresses) displayed, not many people seem all that keen to stick their necks out and diss anyone, or candidly speak off-the-record about how things actually went down, today. Rinzler’s blog series was perhaps going to be one of our main conduits of insight into personality clashes and the egocentrism of various Lucasfilm employees (albeit still written with a degree of tact/balance), but now we might never know…

    • Alexrd

      Chris Taylor provides no evidence for his claim. On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence that doesn’t support his imaginary scenario. Lucas and Natalie Portman were always on friendly terms. Her role in ROTS was substancial, as made evident in various deleted scenes (which were cut solely due to time). And any alleged (or in this case, baseless accusation of) mistreatment of a co-star from TPM wouldn’t affect ROTS, but AOTC.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Alex:

        You’re right. I don’t recall Taylor providing any evidence. That said, there are rumours, hearsay, and faint whispers of poor behaviour from both Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor. J.W. Rinzler gave vague hints of difficult/bad vibes from the pair in his blog series “The Rise And Fall Of Star Wars” during production of Episode III — then he went back and edited that entry shortly before pulling the entire blog.

        While I agree that Portman and Lucas always seem to have been on friendly terms, that says nothing about how Portman might have behaved on-set and treated her co-stars and those she deemed lesser/her inferiors. It seems she has always looked up to Lucas as a world-building genius and incredible Renaissance man, and perhaps bonded with him as something of a father figure, too (it is notable that Lucas has one adopted son, but three daughters).

        Plus, it would have been in her own best interest to stay on friendly terms with a director and powerful industry-shaper like Lucas — but compatriots/underlings? Every human being “knows where the power lies”, and that is often where people become meek, even warm and affected; remove that power and the incentive to be self-abasing and it is often a different story…

        I do think Taylor is really reaching in alleging that Lucas cut Natalie out of ROTS, or dialled back her scenes, because of her allegedly mistreating people, however. Given the fact that Taylor asserts at the close of the very same paragraph that “[Padme] had little left to do but to be barefoot and pregnant”, I think he’s projecting his hang-ups/frustrations onto the artist — and also discounting the artist’s own reasoning.

        From p. 176 of Rinzler’s “The Making Of Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith”:

        “The first script I wrote had stories for everybody,” Lucas notes per the reorg(anization), “and I cut it down and we had a script. But when we cut it together, there were still problems. Finally, I said, ‘Okay, let’s be even more hard-nosed here and take out every scene that doesn’t have anything to do with Anakin.’

        But that causes you to juxtapose certain scenes that you were never contemplating juxtaposing before. And these scenes take on different qualities than before, because the scenes were never meant to be next to each other.

        In one case, there was supposed to be a scene with Padmé and Bail Organa between two Anakin scenes, because we were following her story along with his. And when most of those scenes were cut out, suddenly all sorts of weird things started to happen that weren’t intended in the script – but in some cases it actually worked much better.”

      • Alexrd

        @ Cryo: I’m not saying that Natalie Portman isn’t capable of poor behaviour. I’m saying that there’s no proof of any mistreatment or anymosity against her co-stars in TPM. Let alone having repercussions in ROTS, of all movies. Taylor’s book, like any other fan-book that is out there (for instance, The Secret History of Star Wars) shouldn’t be used as evidence or reference of anything. These are fans, putting their own speculation and judgements in printed form. Their inside knowledge and reliability doesn’t change. It’s still zero.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Alex:

        “There is no proof!” — Trade Federation Senator Lott Dod

        Okay, so I kid…

        Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. As I’ve adumbrated: There is a gagging trend/procedure in effect. We have barely gotten one word of ill behaviour from anyone, by anyone, toward anyone — which doesn’t strike me as a realistic portrait given the contentious nature of human beings and the inherent difficulties (financial, technical, organizational, intellectual, psychological, physical, and emotional) of making high-concept, hundred-million-dollar, cutting-edge blockbuster movies. People are simply keeping schtum.

        Nonetheless, dribs and drabs do leak out. That’s why I adduced the blog of J.W. Rinzler. He hinted in one entry, which he quickly revised, that Ewan and Natalie were difficult and/or distant on the set of ROTS — and, as a consequence, neither of them ever granted him a one-on-one interview for the “making of” book he was purposely there to gather notes/material to facilitate the writing thereof. There have been a few other people who have dropped the odd hint over the years; though it’s difficult to uncover much today.

        Of course, your basic point remains intact: Let’s not buy into random assertions or prosecute people or start making judgements without reasonable evidence. And, indeed, there is little-to-none available.

        I think the allegation that Natalie Portman made Keira Knightley cry during the filming of TPM might actually be a misrecollecting/skewing of a comment Knightley published/circulated in July 2004 by The New York Times Syndicate:

        “I cried every single day I did that film,” [Knightley] said, “because the costumes were so uncomfortable. But I’m really glad I did it, because it was an amazing work experience. It was like being dropped in the deep end.”

        This comments section doesn’t like links, so you can find a scan of the interview by browsing the mainstream Wikipedia entry for TPM (i.e., not Wookipedia) and isolating the 49th reference (as of this writing). The link within that reference takes you to the scan.

  • Will Reardon

    How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise (2014)

    My regrets for believing Taylor and thanks for this revelation. Especially in contrast to Rinzler, Chris Taylor has become an apologist for Disney’s management of Star Wars.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Will:

      No worries. Unfortunately, even Rinzler has now gagged himself — while other luminaries, like Ben Burtt, were thrown overboard. Even Lucas said in the Charlie Rose broadcast in 2015 that Disney “weren’t that keen” to have him around.

      And all “making of” books for the extant films have been cancelled/indefinitely postponed. We’ll see if the one for “Solo”, scheduled for release next April, makes it through the grinder. If so, like the movie itself, it’ll probably be a hatchet job; but the odds aren’t looking too great for its materialization in any form, given that Disney have murdered/imprisoned all three of its predecessors/siblings (for “The Force Awakens”, “Rogue One”, and “The Last Jedi”).

      It is obvious that Disney are aggressively managing the brand and slapping legal warnings on anyone who dares to step out-of-line and speak an unfavourable word. If they can do it to the creator of the entire franchise, they can do it to anyone. Their Stalinist stewardship and suborning of Star Wars is now abundantly clear.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Kate:

        “Do what they must do”. Ah, yes. The Emperor’s way…

        It might well hit the market unlike its forebears, but why would a movie bombing on release inspire honesty from Disney? I don’t see it.

        If anything, they might double down on the lies, the distortions, and the veiling, and the stonewalling, because what happened “behind the curtain” on “Solo” might bear on the other films and speak starkly to Disney’s (mis)management of the franchise in general.

        Given their tactics thus far, I wouldn’t expect the book to have a particularly candid or open quality about it; even if it might be superficially written or presented that way. They’ve displayed so little honesty or integrity since they acquired the brand — why would they change now?

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