Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

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 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 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