Natalie Portman Takes Off the Mask With V For Vendetta
by Brad Balfour
Originally posted on July 14, 2006.
Familiar with science fiction-themed films, actress Natalie Portman uses her character Evey in V For Vendetta to test both her acting skills and her political judgment while making a profound and timely statement. V For Vendetta details the story of a revolutionary who challenges the dominance of a Hitler-like dictator who rigs a disaster to prompt the fear that stirs the population to make him the Supreme Leader. As Evey, Portman becomes entangled in V’s campaign against the government, and finally, becomes his instrument for effecting his revolution.
Based on the groundbreaking graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd the story has been updated from Margaret Thatcher’s England of the ’80s to a near-future that could serve as a metaphor for George Bush’s government.
Clearly possessed of equal doses of beauty and intelligence, the Israeli born Portman has gone from one revolutionary scenario — the comic book like The Star Wars saga — to this intelligent and provocative bit of cinema based on a comic book.
But that’s not all for Portman. She stars in the politically charged indie Free Zone, which is about to be released, and she will appear in films directed by the likes of Olivier Assayas (Paris je t’aime), Milos Forman (Goya’s Ghost) and Zach Helm (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.)
How was it acting opposite Hugo [Weaving] who played V, a character behind a mask the entire time he was on screen?
Hugo is an incredible, amazing actor so even though he had that barrier of not being able to use his face–which we’re so used to using as film actors with the camera right there — he was able to use his physicality and his voice to really create his character. Hugo is such an actor that just by his physical and vocal expressions you could tell exactly who he was; I think as an audience you can feel that.
Did that pose any new challenges for you as an actor?
There’s also an incredible engagement that takes place because you’re always wondering what’s going on behind it. You’re asking yourself, “Is he crying now? Is he smiling?” You’re trying to get into his mind in a way to the point where you almost become V. That’s even more exciting than normally. It earns its action scenes. It has a compelling story so you actually care about what’s going on in the action scenes. It’s not gratuitous, and the action scenes are a great reward to that story because they’re pretty stylized, and are stuff that you’ve never seen before. It’s like a sweet taste.
What was it like sharing your scenes with a man in a mask?
Even though he had the obstacle of not being able to use his face as a tool, his vocal and physical expressiveness was so specific that I had this amazing performance opposite me and whatever I was doing as an actress, [wondering] what is going on with him behind the mask? Is he smiling right now? Is he crying? Is he angry? [I had to ask what is] the character is going through, too, so I could use that.
So you didn’t try it on at all?
I may have but with his sweat in that [laughs]? I think the make-up artist’s main job was to wipe the beads of sweat off the mask’s beard.