The Curious Case of Natalie Portman's Stunt Bum

With the doubt over Natalie Portman's dancing ability in Black Swan, recent allegations of an arse double in new film 'Your Highness' puts the actress under further pressure.
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With the doubt over Natalie Portman's dancing ability in Black Swan, recent allegations of an arse double in new film 'Your Highness' puts the actress under further pressure.

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Everyone knows that the Oscar for Best Actress is a poisoned chalice. As Charlize Theron and Halle Berry soon found out, it's all downhill from there. Aeon Flux and Catwoman served as timely reminders that great actors are only as good as the material they're offered.

So far, Natalie Portman has managed to avoid making any horrible decisions about how to follow up her trophy-grabbing turn in Black Swan. And we'll have to wait and see whether Thor fulfills that particular brief. In the meantime, her post-win fall from grace is currently being managed by a bunch of disgruntled stand-ins instead.

It all started during the pre-Oscar campaign, as Natalie's breakout role was being talked up as the industry favourite. Critics unanimously agreed that Portman had given the performance of a lifetime as a troubled ingenue attempting to connect with her dark side of her id.

But in a twist that could have fouettéd straight off the screen, ballet dancer Sarah Lane went public with claims that she'd performed most of the moves on Natalie's behalf. Taking a stiff metaphorical nail-file to Natalie's overworked ego, Sarah wanted the world to know that the film's producers "were trying to create this image, this facade, really, that Natalie had done something extraordinary. Something that is pretty much impossible... to become a professional ballerina in a year and half."

Sensing that these loose lips were in danger of sinking the good ship Oscar, Lane was pulled to one side and told to stop rocking the boat. In the meantime, director Darren Aronovsky and Benjamin Millepied (the film's choreographer and co-baker of the bun in Natalie's oven) fired back with a number of percentages and statistics about Natalie's contribution to the dancing scenes. Very quickly the debate became needlessly mathematical, like trying to follow the morning stock report on Bloomberg.

Watch her shaven headed role in V For Vendetta, and don’t be surprised if Al Murray pops up in certain scenes as freedom fighter Evie.

Natalie managed to maintain a dignified silence on the subject, initially refusing to be drawn into the discussion. In the end, she was put on the spot by an interviewer, and simply said "I had a chance to make something beautiful with this film, and I don't want to give in to the gossip." Which is a super polite way of telling the world that Sarah Lane is a bitter, pissy bitch.

Now another stand-in has come forward to claim her own part in Natalie's success, telling the press that she took the plunge into an icy Belfast lake for new movie 'Your Highness'. Although we're reassured that the shapely arse in a historically authentic g-string bikini is all Natalie's own work, the dive was performed by Caroline Davis, her film-student double.

All of this talk of taking false credit is as old as the movies themselves. Back in 1974, Mercedes McCambridge effectively scuppered Linda Blair's chances of an Oscar by speaking out (in a throaty growl, presumably) about the fact that she'd performed the gravelly vocals for most of the possession scenes. Linda lost out, despite handling the rest of the role, as well as a sticky crucifix, herself.

As for Natalie, she does at least have previous form for getting other actors to replicate her form. In fact, it was a major plot device in the Star Wars prequels, as Keira Knightley and Rose Byrne both played her doppelgänger handmaidens. A quick switcheroo and Padmé Amidala was able to go frolicking with Anakin at the drop of an elaborate kabuki headpiece.

This realisation suggests that it may be time for a forensic reappraisal of her earlier roles. How often has the gamine beauty pulled the same trick? Watch her shaven headed role in V For Vendetta, and don’t be surprised if Al Murray pops up in certain scenes as freedom fighter Evie. Even more worryingly, what if underage pre-teen assassin Mathilda was actually played by Jeanette Krankie? Suddenly, those inappropriate thoughts about the bob-haired Lolita don't seem quite so fandabidozi.

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