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How much actual dancing did Natalie Portman do in 'Black Swan'? [Updated]

March 28, 2011 |  6:30 am


It's no secret that Natalie Portman had a dancing double for her Oscar-winning performance in "Black Swan." It clearly would have been impossible for a ballet neophyte such as herself to learn some of the advanced techniques in less than a year. But in a development that strikes us as very "Black Swan"-ish, Portman's double has risen up and attacked her, suggesting that the star didn't perform as much dancing as audiences -- and academy voters -- were led to believe.

Sarah Lane, a soloist with New York's American Ballet Theatre who served as Portman's dancing double, said in a recent interview with EW.com that the actress performed only 5% of her full-body dancing scenes. In a number of cases, she said, Portman's face was digitally superimposed onto Lane's body in post-production. (A collection of behind-the-scenes clips posted on YouTube appeared to corroborate parts of what Lane is saying, but the clips were taken down over the weekend at the request of the movie's distributor, Fox Searchlight.)

The dancer's account somewhat contradicts what Benjamin Millepied -- the movie's choreographer and Portman's fiance -- said in a Times interview last week. Millepied stated that Portman performed the vast majority of her own dance moves, claiming that "85% of that movie is Natalie."

In response to all of the back-and-forth, Fox Searchlight has released a statement saying: "We were fortunate to have Sarah there to cover the more complicated dance sequences and we have nothing but praise for the hard work she did. However, Natalie herself did most of the dancing featured in the final film."

[Updated] Darren Aronofsky, the director of "Black Swan," issued a comment to EW.com defending his leading lady: "There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane... Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don’t want anyone to think that’s not her they are watching. It is."

Who's telling the truth? As reported in Dance magazine, Lane was apparently called by a Fox Searchlight producer, asking her to stop giving interviews until after the Oscars.

Is there a corporate cover-up afoot? Or is this a big deal about nothing? After all, so much of movie acting today involves digital enhancement, stunt doubles and clever editing. Weigh in on the discussion in our poll or in the comments section.


SwanBenjamin Millepied on "Black Swan" and Natalie Portman

ABT dancers offer their perspectives on "Black Swan"

Beyond "Black Swan": Underrated dance movies that deserve a second chance


-- David Ng

Upper photo: Natalie Portman -- or is it Sarah Lane? Or both? -- in a scene from "Black Swan." Credit: Fox Searchlight

Lower photo: Portman in "Black Swan." Credit: Fox Searchlight

Comments () | Archives (26)

Want to blame anybody, blame Portman's boyfriend, the film's "choreographer". The dancing scenes of the Corps de Ballet are beyond sloppy; this hack wouldn't be hired to put the Rocketts through their paces! Moreover, Aronofsky's treatment of ballet is putrid and insulting, and Thomas’s advances on Nina were absurd.

This happened with Flashdance. Nothing new.

Of course one can reverse this saying that Ms Portman served as Ms Lane's acting double.

Thanks Obama.
First Libya and now this!

Anyone with a ballet background KNOWS it's impossible that 85% of that dancing was Portman. Impossible. I took ballet for years, and have loved and appreciated its grace, beauty, strength and DEMANDING training my whole life. There is simply no way a non-dancer can acquire the technique Portman supposedly did (if we're to believe the 85% figure) in such a short time. Cannot happen. So, yeah, I believe the REAL ballet dancer.

Natalie is one of the most talented and important people alive. How dare people smear her.

The film was a fictional story, not a documentary. Who cares who did the dancing? The end product was the film. If Sarah lane wants to blame someone, she can blame her agent who did not get her a contract with better attribution.

Who cares? Shame on the media for glomming on to this stupid story. She studied dance when she was young, she trained for a year, she obviously didn't do all the stuff herself, but really who cares? It's a great film and she is a great actress and deserves every accolade for this role. People need to calm down.

who cares?

It's simply ENTERTAINMENT!!!! Everyone got PAID....some will get much more should Black Swan get an 'Osker' or two. NO BIG DEAL...sure glad THIS is ALL we po' folks gotta worry and fret, and pull our hair out, over = whew, LUCKY us!!!

Does it matter? The unwritten rule of stunt performers and body doubles is take the money and be quiet. All Sarah Lane is doing is killing her chances of ever working in film again.

Maybe her boyfriend should have kept his mouth shut. Also, having read some of the reviews, they were convinced she did her own dancing and therefore made the story even more compelling. Well, is she did not do her dancing, then the story is not as compelling? Oscar campaigns are one of the worst things around and this one is up there. They just should have been honest and not go on and on about her suffereing for her art, which besides loosing weight seems to not have been all that much.

Does this mean Tobey Maguire can't really climb walls? I want my money back!

Just look at the movie and check out the body lines. Portman apparently has short arms and legs as Lane has the perfect lenght for a pro ballet dancer.
After viewing a fiew youtube videos, i chocked seing Portman putting up the arms and gosh!! it striking true, her arms are so short. Plus she brakes the long line a ballet dancer must KEEP UP all the time, no dancer bend their arms in 90 deg. Miss Portman next time please accept a truly scenario that will fit you.

Darren Aronofsky has responded to the controversy.


We need a congressional hearing to get to the bottom of this scandal. Did she do 85%, 84%, 83% of her own dancing? I want to know what the precise percentage is. No more lies!

who will hire this loudmouth again?

It is a big deal because even though it is a movie and nothing more, it is a movie that has fooled audiences and academy members.
The problem is that the actual dancer didn't recieve any actual credit for what she did, and the corporation made it seem as Natalie Portman is a dancing genious all of a sudden, that she lost all that weight and everything for this role, when she didn't do as much as it has been said.

It is a disgrace against Ballet, against Oscar winning actors that have actually changed their body in the most dramatic ways, it is a manipulation to get an award and have more sales. Therefore it is a big deal.

Remember with MilliVanilli when they won the grammy and then they lost it, because it became public that they didn't sing....

Well the same now, the academy should take the Oscar back.

"A corporate coverup?" What nonsense. What difference does it make how much dancing she did. She's not a ballerina, she plays one in a movie. Hint: it's not real life.

Hollywood keeps secrets to fool the public? Really? No way -- can't be.

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