15 Comments

  • PrinceOfNaboo

    Very good. Every day that goes by means more respect for the Prequels. By the way, ROTS did win the kind of geek-culture-influenced People’s Choice Award back in 2006. So much for ‘wasn’t well received”.

  • Cryogenic

    Very cool to get more of Natalie’s thoughts — and finally having her say more than a couple of sentences before moving onto other films and filmmakers both Natalie and the interviewer normally seem to value exponentially more.

    I’m still a bit irked, however, that she twice breaks off in the first question, leaving her real thoughts and feelings fragmented and unclear:

    – “I don’t know that I…”
    – “I don’t know that it feels like…”

    Natalie unconsciously echoing the Socratic paradox?

    “ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat”
    “I know that I know nothing”

    Also reminds me of Palpatine interrupting her at the start of AOTC:

    – “Chancellor, if I may comment, I do not believe the situation is…”

    Back to her first response:

    Is she saying all of the expansion is good? Is there a tingling, there, of her expressing some disdain toward Disney, and a concomitant respect for the artistic sensibilities of Star Wars under Lucas? I get the sense she feels a bit disconnected from it all.

    But hopefully, Natalie is proud of her involvement, and I’d like to think she recognises there’s actually some thematic depth and weight to the prequels and the original saga — that Lucasian Star Wars isn’t just mindless entertainment and there’s a deeper purpose to it all.

    • archdukeofnaboo

      @Cryogenic

      I’m pretty sure Natalie – being a critic, or at the least, cynical of corporatism, much like yourself – would have more than a few grey gripes with how the saga is being treated as a cash cow. She didn’t turn away from the Marvel movies for no reason, and she values filmmaking for its artistic merits above all.

      I’m thrilled to hear a line like “There’s a very avid group…”. It shows that, despite not attending any SW conventions, she has a strong awareness of the comeback the PT has been making. I’d imagine she’s been approached by or in contact by many prequelists in the last few years. And some of them may well be fellow actors – the stigma is gone and PT love becomes more powerful by the day.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        I’d like to think Natalie would be a bit cynical/pessimistic about the current state of affairs concerning Star Wars, too. However, I think it depends on her own perception of the series, and how much ambivalence she has toward the whole enchilada. Because I do detect a bit of controlled indifference about the artistic merit of the movies coming from her.

        Something like: “Lucas told a remarkable story in the ones I did”, or “The prequels are both an allegory and a warning for the challenges we face in today’s political world”, or “I think there’s a really intense character study actually going on in the ones George made”. Those would all be a fair bit stronger and less equivocal than the way she normally speaks of them in interviews.

        But your point about her withdrawing from the Marvel movies is a good one — and they are, of course, another Disney property. So Natalie has seen this situation arise already, and I suppose, if she did pull away for that reason, we already have her thoughts on the new Disney-owned era of Star Wars, by proxy.

        I’m also glad she shows awareness of the kind of avidity for the prequels that now exists (and, really, always has). As you observe, that’s an encouraging sign and indicates she has paid at least some attention to ongoing trends.

        Also, while I have taken her to task for being a bit tepid in some of her remarks concerning the prequels, I should also point out the obverse: She has also spoken more fondly and adroitly on them before.

        For example, she made some reasonably fleshed-out and incisive remarks in a brief interview snippet included in a “Complete Saga” Blu-ray featurette. I’ll supply the link, but I’ve more or less parsed out her entire set of comments. They are quite important, in my eyes, and seem to give a good flavour of where her head was at in 2004/2005, at the conclusion of her PT journey:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nqQLtNqLUI

        “Padme has a pretty centred self. It’s not that she goes through this big change internally, but that external things are changing around her and she has to sort of make decisions to cope with that. If she had some different concept of government, or what’s right, or morality, she might have been able to stay with [Anakin]. If her loyalties to him were above everything. But Padme’s a politician. She’s been a leader of many people. This is sort of combining being a woman with being a politician, which is an interesting combination we don’t see much of.”

        “I think the role is really sort of what the true meaning of feminism [is] in my sort of interpretation of it. I think that true feminism is bringing what is particular to women, because we are different, that’s undeniable, to the opportunities that men have. So it’s not going into some place and just behaving like a man, or necessarily desiring what men want just because you can get it.”

        “And so, rather than being consumed with the thirst for power as many of the people around her [are], both men and women, she stays true to her compassion and her belief in democracy and humanity.”

      • archdukeofnaboo

        @Cryogenic

        Well, we all know opinions can change and evolve over time. You’ve said it yourself in your views on TPM.

        And then there’s this:

        How many of us writing with the benefit (luxury) of anonymity on NabooNews would be willing to say the same things in public, in front of a camera? Speaking in interviews is a very different context to what we do, and it is pointless the deny how it affects one’s choice of words (known or unbeknownst to him/her). An obsession with perfecting public speech in the 20th century led to PR, and many thereafter began to mourn the loss of candid chat. Had real life dialogue become fake?

        On the contrary – and this isn’t really SW related – the internet has given a platform for some people to spout outrageous things you know they would stand over in person. Is this phenomena not also ‘fake’? The rise of Facebook would offer a hybrid, or a digital equivalent of letters to the editor, which we long assumed would fix the issues surrounding the YouTube comment section, among other cesspits: same cyberspaces, but with real names. Has it solved the problem?

        A public consternation with PR-driven speech more recently in the US led to the installation of the all too candid Trump as President. Has it solved the problem?

      • archdukeofnaboo

        *you know they wouldn’t stand over

        An yes I do realise I’m getting philosophical here, but the way you’ve been analysing Natalie seemed to be calling for such a discussion.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        That’s great — but how does any of that relate to what I wrote?

        Natalie’s an articulate Harvard graduate, Amidala is possibly her most well-known character/performance, and she has never done three films in a series connected as conspicuously and as intimately as the prequels are; let alone for a filmmaker as famous, as industry-changing, as decorated, and as talked-about as George Lucas. What’s more, Natalie is someone who seems to choose her film projects with care, and can obviously appreciate multiple aesthetic paradigms, as well as artistic nuance.

        Therefore, I assume she is capable of giving a reasonably rigorous and passionate disclosure of her feelings toward the prequels (and any of her other film projects) if she chooses. And her earlier remarks, from that Blu-ray featurette, which I carefully transcribed, clearly demonstrate she “got” the character at the apex of the trilogy, and is more than competent at explaining her roles, even linking something as “lowly” as Star Wars with feminism and wider social and cultural issues, when she wants to.

        Ironically, the very notion you now make mention of — that people’s feelings change/evolve over time — is why I was hesitant to reference her Blu-ray remarks initially. So that I didn’t come across as too “anti-Natalie”, I was going to mention them in my first post; but at the time, not having played the featurette back in a while, I dismissed her earlier remarks as possibly being “too close to the time” and (doubly ironic in terms of your last response) “Natalie playing the PR game”. But when I replayed the featurette, her remarks actually struck me as reasonably sincere, and I felt they did a good job at outlining the importance of the Padme character (especially contrasted against Anakin), so I reversed my stance and included them in my last reply. But yes, if she was passionate back then, or merely faking it, or trying to convince herself, it looks like the Natalie of today is in mood to speak so fondly and openly about them on an artistic level anymore.

        Really not sure what Facebook or Trump has to do with anything here. I’m on Facebook and I speak my mind, but I try to be courteous to other people — at least, on initial contact. If I take a stranger to task, I try to avoid ad hominem; or at least blanket insults. And I absolutely don’t fake anything regarding my opinions. I feel I can smell “fake” very well; and read into a situation when someone is holding back. Natalie’s comments in the *latest* interview have that flavour to them, in my opinion. She was more passionate about extolling the virtues of the Padme character in that Blu-ray featurette, and she has happily exploited her association with Star Wars in other ways (“STOP WARS” t-shirt and two separate prequel-milking appearances on Saturday Night Live). So what gives?

        The most overt aspect of her Empire interview remarks isn’t what she says; it’s what she avoids saying. She almost says it at the end, however: “I don’t have enough perspective to weigh in.” In other words, she isn’t sure whether the films are good or bad; or, by extension, whether they’re really worthy of avidity or not. It’s not a terrible comment. I understand why she might say that. But in the rest of the interview, she seems to be constantly weaving around the elephant in the room. Yes, she also seems to be watching what she says with regard to the Disney movies, and we might understand her on that point, too. But she could at least give a stronger defence of the prequels — especially to anti-prequel, AOTC-review-altering Empire magazine — if she felt better about the movies, in 2019, than she apparently does.

        At the end of the day, her remarks are really no better or worse than Ewan McGregor’s — which is both “fine” and disappointing. It’s actually kind of funny. J.W. Rinzler hinted, in a now-deleted and formerly-redacted blog entry, that Ewan and Natalie were distant and difficult to approach on the Episode III set; and they both now sound pretty alike when speaking about the movies and their involvement with them. Trying to extract some honest-to-goodness enthusiasm from them is like trying to draw blood from the proverbial stone. And it shouldn’t be hard if they’re truly proud of their work on those films. Hayden and Ian can manage it. So can people like Liam Neeson, Ahmed Best, Temuera Morrison, and Christopher Lee. As principal actors with top billing, Ewan and Natalie have little reason to hold back; unless they really hold misgivings and feel confused and even letdown by the prequels and the general response to them in wider culture.

      • archdukeofnaboo

        I think you’re overanalysing. It’s like an ardent sequel fan criticising Adam Driver for not being present at Celebration.

        Perhaps neither Natalie or Ewan will ever be able to hold the SW prequels up as the best films they’ve worked on, but, if recent interviews are anything to go by, they are undoubtedly proud of them. And that is what really matters, what we should rejoice in. They are professional actors and defending the films is the primary domain of its fans – the people who pay money to watch, and are inspired, aka us.

        Did the PT hate bandwagon launched in 2010-11 have an impact on their opinions, preventing them from speaking more openly and passionately? I’m sure it did. Nobody wanted to be called out for heresy against a doctrine as vicious and hurtful as that of the “true SW fan”. I’m sure casting higher-ups in Hollywood didn’t want to see too much PT affection either.

        I’ve been involved in short films in the past, and it is silly to assume it doesn’t colour your perception when you then see them as a viewer. Some were great experiences, others were not. That’s what she’s suggesting in her “enough perspective” closing remark. Ranking the films isn’t something she can do in the way we can.

        Again, those comments in Empire Magazine are great (adding to last year’s brilliant SNL sketch & defence of Ahmed Best) and more than anything, I hope they can persuade many people still on the fence to go rewatch the movies.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        “I think you’re overanalysing. It’s like an ardent sequel fan criticising Adam Driver for not being present at Celebration.”

        Ha! I’m actually glad you said it. Dear Sweet Force, I rambled so hard in that last post. Sorry, AD. You’re right.

        Thank you — honestly — for taking up the mantle of Obi-Wan and cutting the Gordian knot. I did, indeed, get a little carried away!

        “Perhaps neither Natalie or Ewan will ever be able to hold the SW prequels up as the best films they’ve worked on, but, if recent interviews are anything to go by, they are undoubtedly proud of them. And that is what really matters, what we should rejoice in. They are professional actors and defending the films is the primary domain of its fans – the people who pay money to watch, and are inspired, aka us.”

        Very well said. They are who they are; and we are who we are. As you intimate, they got paid to do a job, and they did it to the best of their abilities. They aren’t obliged to offer a hearty defence or pretend to feelings they don’t have; especially after the whole promotional circuit is done and dusted, and the prequels are now just a brute fact (quality, on the other hand, is subjective), all these years later.

        Meanwhile, we are free to gush about the movies at length, and rejoice in our own subjective impressions. We shouldn’t need everyone else in the world, not even those the other side of the proscenium, despite our innate desire to have our passion validated by the people that we see acting out the characters we love, to mirror our sentiments. Perhaps I need to watch a little more for that in myself.

        You make many valid points. Moreover, if we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, there are obviously bits of Star Wars that we prefer and cherish more than other bits. Pretty churlish, in fact, to rebuff actors when we have our own preferences, and aren’t shy about letting them be known. You have the higher ground on this one.

        To say again with a bit more emphasis: That last post of mine was very narrow — too narrow. I ended up getting tangled up in my own word-trap and missed your wider point about modes of communication and the shimmering timbre of personal opinion.

        “Again, those comments in Empire Magazine are great (adding to last year’s brilliant SNL sketch & defence of Ahmed Best) and more than anything, I hope they can persuade many people still on the fence to go rewatch the movies.”

        Solid and fair finish. It does seem the conversational ground on the prequels has shifted to something a bit more even-handed and open-minded in recent years. As you identified earlier with Natalie pointing out the rise of a new fanaticism (in the positive sense) around these films, that’s progress and something to savour.

      • archdukeofnaboo

        @Cryogenic

        Or maybe you saw @Maychild’s post bellow and were a little jealous of the great penmanship of it?

        I’m just kidding!

        I too went off-tangent myself with the comparison between online and in-public discourse.

        Tell me, have you convinced yourself to start watching the Clone Wars series yet?

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        “Or maybe you saw @Maychild’s post bellow…”

        Bellow! Freudian slip? Maychild rarely holds back!!!

        “…and were a little jealous of the great penmanship of it?”

        Oh, yes. You don’t even have to be joking! I’ve been a great admirer of Maychild for quite some time.

        Hope she won’t mind me saying, but I first encountered her on IMDb, and I still consider her to be one of the best cataloguers of anti-prequel hypocrisy, from various corners, and epic slayers of bashing, there’s ever been. She has very good recall, and as you seem to recognise, a commendably robust prose style.

        “I too went off-tangent myself with the comparison between online and in-public discourse.”

        I think we do get into tangents here. Not to worry. They make discussion a lot more interesting. Check out the Naboo News Facebook page where all the same news items get posted. It’s not nearly so exciting.

        “Tell me, have you convinced yourself to start watching the Clone Wars series yet?”

        Ah! Not just yet, no. I struggle to get into new things; or new-old things. I’m terribly lazy and get stuck in the same patterns. My excuse is, I’m trying to put a Star Wars book together, and that’s keeping me busy. But, if anything, that’s even more of a reason to watch the series. Will let you know!

      • Slicer87

        Would not be surprised if Portman was just being influenced by the bandwagon effect, especially in the early days of PT hate. Even smart people can still fall for the bandwangon effect.

        The Clone Wars show only loosely follows the films, and there are quite a few adaptation changes in it.

  • maychild

    While I’m glad to see Natalie take a more positive stance on the prequels these days, I have a feeling, and have long had a feeling, that she isn’t really “into” SW, and not just the prequels — the whole saga. That she took the role because it was in a prominent movie series — arguably THE most prominent movie series of the last 25 years (hard to believe it’s been almost that long), and it would increase her visibility, but that other movies and roles mean a lot more to her on a personal and professional level.

    Nothing wrong with that, nor is it anything new — Harrison Ford has been openly cantankerous about SW almost from the first and complained quite a bit about it (which the press gleefully reported, if not exaggerated; those who say that the negative SW press coverage began with the prequels are full of crap); Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher did their share of (semi-)affectionate griping; and Lucas himself has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the series, which is not an uncommon stance for a creator toward his magnum opus.

    However, Natalie strikes me as having a “too cool for school” air about her toward SW, an “I was slumming, and I know it” stance. A snobbery, if you will, which is also not new — see the late Alec Guinness — but in her case I think it’s wholly unearned. Alec Guinness was a highly acclaimed actor for decades before taking the part of Obi Wan Kenobi in SW and had become a legend. Natalie had had a highly acclaimed debut and a couple of acclaimed follow-ups when she accepted the role in SW, but she was hardly a legend, nor do I really see her becoming one. I have never understood the way critics all but worship her, because I don’t think she’s all that talented. She had the luck of getting a great role that may have as well been written for her as her debut (in “The Professional,” now called “Leon”), and critics took that as a sign of a phenomenal talent well on her way to becoming an acting genius. Once the hate campaign against the prequels began, it became another excuse for critics to haul out to protect her when she gave a mediocre or bad performance in a non-SW film: “The SW prequels ruined her.” They continued to use that specious claim long after the last prequel came out, including after Natalie won a Best Actress Oscar and logic would dictate they’d put the damn thing to rest.

    (One critic, James Berardinelli, who claims to be a defender of the prequels but in fact badmouths them whenever he can, excused her “eh” performance in the first “Thor” sequel by saying that dearest Natalie was “not her best in FX-heavy action movies,” and, yes, adding a swipe at the SW prequels, then choosing to blame the director and screenwriter. I e-mailed him asking that if that was the case, why Kat Dennings, who was in the same FX-heavy action movie, with the same director and screenwriter, managed to act circles around dearest Natalie, and got stony silence as an answer.

    Critics, and laypeople, have been known to say not only that the prequels “ruined her,” but that an “eh” or bad performance from her in a non-SW movie is due to her talent being “misused” or “suppressed”: that she is as good as the people surrounding her. I couldn’t disagree with that more. She has been mediocre to lousy in many movies, regardless of who the director/screenwriter/other actors were, and if she can’t cut the mustard unless she’s surrounded with the cream of the crop, why is she held up as such a phenomenal talent to begin with? Shouldn’t SHE be the one elevating her co-stars’ performances, and rising above not-so-great writing/directing?)

    Natalie did little to endear me to her by following the critics’ lead and using the prequels to shield herself (meanwhile, the same critics who bent over backwards to protect her absolutely tore Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen to shreds, going way beyond the bounds of decency), even blaming them for a supposed “career gap.” When Mike Nichols died, she used the occasion to complain about how “no one thought she could act after Episode I,” and Nichols persuaded directors to give her another chance. I found it hard to weep over her plight, both because she had once airily claimed that “she’d rather be smart than famous,” and because I went through a REAL career gap that lasted way longer than her supposed one, plus I didn’t have a Harvard degree and millions of dollars to fall back on, nor did I have the equivalent of an A-list director to vouch for me.

    (I might add that Lucas was extremely accommodating toward her academic schedule when she was attending Harvard, and that the prequels, which were NOT “poorly received” as this interview claims, kept her in the spotlight during her college years, whereas a similarly acclaimed young actress, Claire Danes, dropped off the face of the showbiz Earth during her college years, and when she returned to acting, she had been all but forgotten. She was forced to take roles she never would have accepted during her “glory days”; it took her years to get her career back on track, and even then, it was a lucky break with a cable TV series, not big screen movies.)

    In short, I think Natalie (who i referred to as “Little Miss Portman” during the height of my snideness toward her) could have shown a bit more gratitude toward SW rather than acting like it was beneath her, and find her altered ‘tude a bit too conveniently timed. I feel similarly toward Harrison Ford; his ‘tude has irked me especially because of the “Big Three,” he had the least to complain about with regards to the SW association. We know for a fact that Mark Hamill was denied the chance to rerprise the title role in the movie version of “Amadeus,” though he’d played the role to great acclaim onstage: the director felt that having “Luke Skywalker” in his movie would make it less credibl. Yet Hamill himself (that’s also his Twitter handle) hasn’t publicly expressed bitterness about it to my knowledge. Ford wouldn’t shut up about how SW “ruined his career,” although I fail to see how he suffered from the SW association, except in his own ornery mind. Most critics were quick to gush about how he’d moved on from the SW “taint” when assessing his “quality” projects, most of which I found grossly overrated anyway. I happen to like Ford best in action movies — they’re his strength, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. He softened toward SW in more recent years, and personally I thought that in TFA, he looked like he was having more fun than he’d had in eons. Maybe that was partly due to his knowledge that Han was getting killed off, something he’d wanted to happen since 1983. But still, the old grump enjoyed himself, and the slight ‘tude he copped when making the talk show rounds amused rather than irritated me. One talk show host asked him if he felt nostalgic about donning Han’s costume again. He gave said host one of his patented “You’re not very bright, are you?” looks and said in his likewise patented dry manner, “No, I got paid.”

    • PrinceOfNaboo

      I think you are a little bit harsh on Natalie, even though you certainly have a point. She didn’t really have a connection to the movies when they started TPM, she hadn’t even seen a single SW by that point. So all of that “emotionality”, the “greatest thing in my life” approach that others had wasn’t palpable for her. It was a more rational, professional experience. A job, really. But she’s never fallen into negativity towards the films and she’s not responsible for the the way critics spoke about her and the films. Ewan has been quite a bit more critical and negative for many years.

      But the two actors that seemed to connect the most with the PT and GL were Sam Jackson and Hayden, who both also attented GL’s wedding years after.

      • maychild

        Oh, my dear, you have no idea how harsh I can be, and have been. I was actually trying to temper my not-fondness for Natalie a bit. I don’t hate her, or even dislike her (anymore), but I don’t exactly like her either. And I said some of the things you said: that she regards the movies as a job, and she’s never really been a SW fan. She watched the OT only after accepting the part, and she mostly did so to analyze Carrie Fisher’s performances, to see how she could draw a mother/daughter parallel. As it happens, Padmé isn’t really all that much like Leia. She’s more even-tempered, more formal, more diplomatic. But you can see hints of Leia’s feistiness in the action scenes, and in the Senate scene in Episode 1, where she refuses to defer. She’s only 14 but she’s sick of being pushed around.

        Lucas could have done the crowd-pleasing thing and made her “Leia, the Previous Generation,” but he had something else in mind, and he was VERY happy with Natalie. Like in “The Beginning,” when he walks away from a scene with her saying, “Wow, she’s fantastic.” Similarly, he could have (and many bashers have claimed that she should have) put in a Han Solo equivalent character, but if he had, I’m sure those same bashers would have sneered, “Didn’t he realize he struck gold with Harrison Ford and he wouldn’t be so lucky twice? He just put in (theoretical character) for the sake of having one, aping his earlier work. He can’t do anything original!”

        I don’t expect Natalie to have a fangirl’s view of SW, nor do I expect her to hold the prequels in the highest regard — obviously there are movies she’s done that mean more to her, as I stated in my post. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t much like the injudicious remarks she’s made in the past, but here I will offer a possible explanation: maybe she was a bit annoyed that her best scenes in the prequels — the Naberrie family scenes in AOTC and the “Seeds of the Rebellion” scenes in ROTS — were left on the cutting room floor. No actor likes seeing what they consider good work get cut, even if they understand the reasoning behind the decision.

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