Natalie Portman’s biggest taste of commercial success came via George Lucas’s widely-panned “Star Wars” prequel trilogy – beginning with 1999’s “Episode One : The Phantom Menace”.
While the latter was the highest-grossing film in North America at the time, and the three movies made more money than most of Portman’s other credits combined have, the actress admits she was hurt by the response to “Menace” and its sequels.
In an interview in the latest Empire, the Oscar winning actress described the critical failure of the films a real “bummer”.
“It was hard. It was a bummer because it felt like people were so excited about new ones and then to have people feel disappointed. Also to be at an age that I didn’t really understand that’s kind of the nature of the beast. When something has that much anticipation it can almost only disappoint.”
The “Black Swan” and “Thor” star believes the films are getting more popular as time passes, though.
“With the perspective of time, it’s been re-evaluated by a lot of people who actually really love them now. There’s a very avid group of people who think they’re the best ones now! I don’t have enough perspective to weigh in.”
Lucas, Rick McCallum, and casting director Robin Gurland auditioned over 200 actresses for the part of Padmé Amidala, ultimately settling on 16-year-old Portman.
“My cousins had always been obsessed with the films, yet I hadn’t even seen them before I got the part,” she says. “When it all happened for me, my cousins were exclaiming, ‘Oh, my God, you’re in Star Wars!'” She said in an interview at the time, “I really wasn’t aware of how big a deal Star Wars was … and when I saw the films, I really liked them, but I still didn’t really understand how many … were passionate fans of this film.”
Despite critics savaging her performance, Portman seemed proud to play the part.
“It was wonderful playing a young queen with so much power. I think it will be good for young women to see a strong woman of action who is also smart and a leader.”