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Oscars: How Natalie Portman became a real dancer for 'Black Swan'

February 17, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Black swan 393"She absolutely, convincingly becomes a dancer" in "Black Swan," insists director Darren Aronofsky in this new promo video dramatizing the physical ordeal Natalie Portman endured to slip into toe shoes for the role.

Portman's trainer was former New York City Ballet trouper Mary Helen Bowers, who recalls how Portman prepared for the role's physical challenges by working out "five hours a day, six days a week for months and months and months leading up to the film -– while she was working other jobs."

Portman endured, noting, "I love dancing so much that I decided that it would be so fun to be able to dance at work! That would be part of my job. [Then] I realized how physically grueling it would be."

Displaying such extreme physical commitment to a performance often helps stars to win the Oscar -– as Hilary Swank ("Million Dollar Baby") and Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull") discovered when they overhauled their bodies to become boxers on screen.

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight)