One of Natalie Portman’s earliest roles was in the 1996 film “Beautiful Girls”, in which adult actor Timothy Hutton develops a crush on her character, despite that fact that she’s just 13.
Roles such as that and her earlier one as a preteen wannabe assassin in “Leon: The Professional” may have launched her career, yet she now looks back on them with a wary eye.
Speaking with Dax Shepard on the latest edition of his “Armchair Expert” podcast, the “Black Swan” Oscar winner revealed she knew exactly how she was being perceived.
“I was definitely aware of the fact that like, I was being portrayed — like mainly in the kind of journalism around when the movies would come out — as this Lolita figure and stuff,” she said.
“Being sexualized as a child took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid. It made me feel like the way I can be safe is to be like, ‘I’m conservative, and I’m serious, and you should respect me, and I’m smart and don’t look at me that way,'” Portman continued.
“Whereas, like, that age — you do have your own sexuality, and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things, and you do want to be open, but you don’t feel safe, necessarily, when there’s, like, older men that are interested and you’re like ‘No, no no no no no.'”
As a result, she constructed a “fortress” around her as a means of protecting herself.
“So many people had this impression of me that I was super-serious and prude and conservative as I got older,” she explained. “I consciously cultivated that because it was a way to make me feel safe. If someone respects you, they’re not going to objectify you.”
Looking back, however, she admitted, “It worked out, luckily. I mean, I was safe.”