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Natalie Portman argues that Method Acting is “a luxury for women”



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Natalie Portman is one of the most acclaimed actresses today, and has been for many years. Her preparation for the roles is remarkable, but there is one particular acting technique that she has never tried: “method acting”. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, she explained why.

In the 2023/2024 awards season, Natalie Portman has been a constant presence. This is due to her performance as actress Elizabeth in “May December”, the new black comedy by Todd Haynes. In Portugal, the film hit cinemas on November 30, 2023 with the title “May December: Secrets of a Scandal”. We remember the real story of a problematic relationship between an adult woman and a teenager and their formation of a family despite the huge and illegal age gap. Julianne Moore (“My Name Is Alice”) and Charles Melton (“Riverdale”) embody this infamous dysfunctional couple, while Portman plays an actress who does everything to get into her character’s mind. Even if this completely destabilizes this couple’s marital life, recovering old wounds.

may december natalie portman
© NOS Audiovisuais

Natalie Portman’s performance in “May December” won appointments to Golden Globes in 2024for the Satellite awards, for the Spirit Awards and for several other ceremonies. We have already highlighted the nuance of his work, as a true revelationand although his chances for the hard-fought Best Actress at the 2024 Oscars are shaky, it can still surprise and without a doubt this performance of his is one of the most celebrated of the cinematographic year.

Winner of the golden statuette in 2011 for her performance in “The Black Swan” by Darren Aronofsky, a role in which he transformed, body and mind, into a ballerina consumed by his performance in the ballet “Swan Lake”, and also named for his intense impersonation of Kennedy’s wife in “Jackie” (2016), or for the intense performance in “Close: Too Close”(2004), Natalie Portman is no stranger to complete immersion in a character.


May December Spirit Awards Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman never tried “The Method” but has already delved deeply into the characters © Netflix

However, there is something you have never experienced: the polarizer “method acting”. Treated simply as “The method” or “Interpretation Method for the Actor”, this technique that seeks to encourage sincerity in the actor’s process was created by the Russian interpreter and director Constantin Stanislavski (1863 – 1938) and perfected on North American stages in the mid-20th century, with great promoters such as Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio.

“The Method” has been Quite divisive in Hollywood in recent years. Practitioners of this type of representation remain in character between takes and often even when they return home, they never leave the character throughout the film’s recording period, which can sometimes lead to their interactions in the recording studio being unnatural, particularly if they are inhabiting black personas.

On the other hand, Oscar winner Natalie Portman has a firm perspective on the method, arguing that this technique is a luxury for women and in particular for women who are mothers:

I’ve become quite consumed with roles, but I honestly think [o método] It’s a luxury for a woman (…) I don’t think partners or children would be very understanding if, suddenly, I asked everyone to always call me Jackie Kennedy.

These statements, published on January 8th by The Wall Street Journal fit perfectly with the film’s theme “May December”. Here, the character played by you, also an actress, allows herself to be completely immersed in the character, losing sight of the line between her own identity and that of the character. Ultimately, Portman doesn’t seem to consider this process sustainable.

The actress has already gone through very intense preparation processes, for example during “The Black Swan“, a role for which she lost a lot of weight and which led her to train dance for many months. However, she argues that, at the end of the day, she is able to separate herself from the character and return home.


natalie portman may december
Natalie Portman explores, in “May December”, the confines of representation tactics © NOS Audiovisuais

The Method, or “Method Acting”, was parodied in 2024 Golden Globes ceremonyon January 7th, with Jared Leto sharing how he had prepared for weeks to grab an envelope and inhabit the character of the presenter. This is a reference to his adoption of the Method during the recordings of “Suicide squad”, at which point he became the Joker and even sent allegedly disgusting gifts to his colleagues. Another example of method acting came from Andrew Garfield, that during its preparation for “Silence” in Martin Scorsese He deprived himself of food and sex to simulate the experience of the Jesuit priest he played. Other actors well known for using the method are Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio or Robert De Niro.

Although the controversial method, which divides opinions as it is sometimes associated with arrogance and dislike, is more used by men, there are also actresses who have used it as a Hilary Swank for the preparation of “Boys Don’t Cry”, Lady Gaga for “Gucci House” or, recently, Carey Mulligan for “Conductor”upon advice from Bradley Cooperwho also used the technique in the film, as stated in an interview with Variety.

On this side, do you consider that the somewhat unconsensual technique of “method acting” is easier to employ by men than by women?

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