Brilliant Facts About Natalie Portman

March 13, 2018 | Alexa Terpanjian

Brilliant Facts About Natalie Portman

Actress, speaker, film director and producer Natalie Portman has been gracing the big screen since she was 11 years old, when she stole hearts with her soul-crushing performance as the traumatized and abandoned Matilda in Leon: The Professional. Portman has locked down a successful acting career while also chasing her dreams of attaining a Harvard education (see fact #29). She is dedicated and passionate at both of her crafts (fact #22: She graduated with honors, and fact #12: She runs her own production company), making her a strong role model for women around the world. Read on to uncover 42 brilliant facts about Natalie Portman.

Natalie Portman Facts

42. A Traumatic History

Portman has lived around the world, but she holds dual citizenship from the United States and Israel. Many of her family members were lost during the Holocaust, including her paternal great-grandparents who were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock


41. Is That Your Real Name?

Portman was originally born in Israel, and was given the name Neta-Lee, a Hebrew name. After she got the part in Leon: The Professional, she took the stage name Portman (the maiden name of her paternal grandmother) to maintain privacy surrounding her family’s true name.

Natalie Portman FactsLéon: The Professional, Les Films du Dauphin

40. Dancer At Heart

Since the age of 4, Portman has been taking dance lessons, which helped her train in preparation for her role in Black Swan.

Mila Kunis FactsGetty Images

39. Good Things Come in Small Packages

Portman stands at a petite 5’3” tall. Once, when she landed at a London airport to do reshoots for the third Star Wars prequel, a customs official asked Portman if she was traveling with a guardian.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

38. For a Good Cause

Since she was 8 years old, Portman has been a vegetarian, and she’s been vegan since 2009. At the 27th annual Environmental Media Awards benefit, Portman explained that she chose a vegan lifestyle based on how our three choices a day (or even once a day or once a week) affect the planet.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

37. Protein Packed

Portman’s favorite food isn’t pizza. Tofu and black beans are actually her go-to staples.

Natalie Portman FactsFlickr

36. The Girl Knows What She Wants

At the tender age of 9 (back when Portman did eat pizza), she was discovered in a pizza shop by a beauty scout from Revlon cosmetics, who encouraged her to pursue a career in modeling. Portman turned down the potential modeling contract to focus on acting instead.

Natalie Portman FactsGetty Images

35. A Running Head Start

Portman got a taste for drama, acting and musicals after spending three summers at the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Camp, near Poughkeepsie, NY.

Natalie Portman FactsWikimedia Commons, Jacque fresco


34. The Time of Her Life

The 1987 classic Dirty Dancing was one of Portman’s earliest influences. She says, “That was my movie growing up.”

Patrick Swayze factsDirty Dancing (1987), Vestron Pictures


33. Nerdy is the New Cool

In high school, Portman was voted by her peers to be “Most Likely to Appear on Jeopardy.” She describes that as “code for nerdy.” She claims that the girls in her high school had designer bags while all she had was Wite-Out on her hands.

Jeopardy FactsGetty Images


32. Everyone Asks a Dumb Question

Heading to Harvard was stressful for Portman. She felt like she had to work extra hard and prove that she’d made it in based on her own intelligence rather than her fame. She felt like if she made a stupid comment in class that she’d across as being even stupider. Someone should have told her that basically everyone has a stupid moment when they’re a freshman.

Terrifying Events QuizGetty Images

31. We All Go Through It

Portman didn’t get any special treatment while at Harvard, and she went through the same trials and tribulations as her peers. She gained the freshman 15, had very low, depressing moments, and struggled through the cold Cambridge winters. Luckily she leaned on friends, professors, and mentors for help.

Natalie Portman FactsFlickr

30. With Flying Colors

Portman graduated with honors from Harvard in 2003 with an A.B. in Psychology. She once said, “I'm going to college. I don't care if it ruins my career. I'd rather be smart than a movie star."

Bettie Page FactsShutterstock

29. One Smart Cookie

Portman is extremely gifted, with an IQ score of 140. She’s also published not one but two research papers in scientific journals—"A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar" was a 1998 high school paper, and "Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence: Data From Near-Infrared Spectroscopy" is from 2002, during her psychology studies at Harvard.

Natalie Portman FactsWikipedia, John Steven Fernandez

28. Eager To Learn

While a student at Harvard, Portman was active in the political debate between Israel and Palestine. She wrote a response letter to Harvard Crimson in the form of a critical essay discussing Israeli actions towards Palestinians. After graduating, she continued to study more by taking graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

27. On the Straight and Narrow

Contrary to other kids around her while she was growing up, Portman confessed that she always felt different, saying “I was more ambitious. I knew what I liked and what I wanted, and I worked very hard. I was a very serious kid."

Natalie Portman FactsGetty Images

26. Slightly Banged Up

When Portman had her head shaved for V for Vendetta, you might have noticed that she has a slight indentation on her head. It’s the result of being extracted during birth by vacuum.

Natalie Portman FactsV for Vendetta, Warner Bros.

25. She’s Pretty Good at Everything Else

Portman has performed in all kinds of roles, ranging from serious to funny and everything else in between. A type of performance that she thinks she needs to work on, however, is improvisation. Portman believes that her performance in Everyone Says I Love You was sub-par because of her inability to improvise.

Natalie Portman FactsEveryone Says I Love You, Miramax

24. School Comes First

When Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace premiered in 1999, 17-year-old Portman missed the grand opening because she had a high school exam that she had to write the following day.

Keira Knightley FactsStar Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, 20th Century Fox

23. TV Free Zone

Portman has lived in Paris since her marriage to Benjamin Millepied, and the couple is TV free. That’s right, zero television screens. Even though she loves cooking shows, and watching the occasional episode of Transparent or Broad City, she gets her fix every once in a while on a computer.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

22. Natural Born Linguist

As an esteemed actress and honors graduate from Harvard, Portman has a gift for memorizing, retaining and reciting volumes of information, including multiple languages. Portman can speak Hebrew, English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Natalie Portman FactsWikimedia Commons, Siebbi

21. She Does What She Wants

Portman won’t do just anything for her craft. She initially turned down the script for the 1999 film Anywhere but Here because she would have to appear nude. Susan Sarandon insisted she wouldn’t work without Portman, so the script was revised to accommodate the young actress. In her role in V for Vendetta, she boldly shaved her head.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

20. Love On Set

While filming Black Swan in 2009, Portman began dating her choreographer, esteemed baller dancer Benjamin Millepied. Depending on how you read it, his last name is either fitting, or kind of gross—it’s French for “thousand feet.”

Natalie Portman FactsGetty Images

19. The Role of a Lifetime

Portman’s intense performance as Nina Sayers in Black Swan earned her critical acclaim, and her first Academy Award for Best Actress, amongst other awards, including her second Golden Globe Award.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

18. Dance Double Dispute

Both before and after she won the Oscar for Black Swan, Portman and Aronofsky were targeted by people from the ballet world regarding the amount of credit given to Portman's dance double, who covered the more complicated ballet moves in the film. Especially after she won, it was speculated that Portman's lack of acknowledgment of her dance double, Sarah Lane, in her Oscar acceptance speech was a method of erasing Lane's participation and performance in the film.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock


17. No Guts, No Glory

Portman went through a lot while filming Black Swan. First, she broke a rib. Portman also injured her ankle, and there was no medic on set as the production budget didn’t allow for it. She also lost 20 pounds for the role, training up to 16 hours a day.

Natalie Portman FactsFlickr

16. Real Dedication

Portman paid for all of her own ballet training for Black Swan.

Princess Diana FactsFlickr

15. Young Sounding

Portman has been criticized for her young, immature sounding speaking voice. Throughout her career, she’s worked hard to lower and deepen it, however, for Black Swan, she was encouraged to regress for the role of the childish Nina Sayers. According to Portman, this was one of the most challenging character aspects of Black Swan for her.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

14. Music Video Sensation

Catch Portman in Paul McCartney’s music video My Valentine. In the evocative black and white music video, she’s shot alongside Johnny Depp, and she mouths the words of the song and uses sign language.

Natalie Portman FactsWikimedia Commons, Oli Gill

13. From Rags to Tutus

Portman and Black Swan co-star Mila Kunis are actually good friends in real life. Portman sums up their time spent on set of Black Swan, saying that one day they’d be sitting around having a “sweatpants night” watching Top Chef, and then the next they’d be on set together emaciated and tired in tutus.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

12. You Go Girl

Portman started her own production company, Handsomecharlie Films (a tribute to Charlie Chaplin and a departed dog) with the intention of creating more roles for women by women with a focus on female comedies. She is aiming to produce her version of The Hangover but with women.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

11. Blissfully Unaware

Before landing her role in Star Wars: Episode 1– The Phantom Menace, Portman had never even laid eyes on the original Star Wars trilogy. She openly admitted that prior to being cast, she lived in a bubble and didn’t know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Don’t tell the fans that!

Natalie Portman FactsFlickr

10. Life After Acting

Portman’s father is a fertility specialist and gynecologist, and when she gets older, she’d like to follow in his footsteps.

Natalie Portman FactsGetty Images

9. Wanderlust

In 2003 and 2004, Portman pursued her passion for travel by doing some solo traveling, crossing off Morocco and Guatemala from her list.

Natalie Portman FactsNeedpix

8. A High Fashion Goddess

Smart, talented and beautiful, Portman is a trifecta of appeal. No wonder mega-fashion designer Zac Posen refers to her as his muse.

Natalie Portman FactsWikimedia Commons, Rubenstein


7. Lil’ Scrappy

Portman really enjoys professional wrestling.

Tom Cruise factsShutterstock

6. Master Drama Creator

On the set of Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky wanted to pit Portman against costar Mila Kunis for added drama while shooting. Aronofsky would fuel competition between the two by keeping them separated for days, and saying how well one actress was doing to the other actress.

Natalie Portman FactsWikimedia Commons,

5. Yin Nowhere Near Yang

Aronofsky claims he didn’t want Portman and Kunis to know each other’s motives, or compare notes. Coming from different places was important to him and for the authenticity of their respective dark and light roles.

Natalie Portman FactsShutterstock

4. Unlikely Friends

Both Portman and pop star Britney Spears were once understudies for an off-Broadway play called Ruthless! Their friendship has spanned many years, and they even hosted a huge New Year’s party together in 2002 with 40 of their friends at the Hudson Hotel in Manhattan.

Natalie Portman FactsGetty Images

3. Cause for Concern

Then 11-year-old Portman had very strict guidelines put in place by her parents when she was cast as Matilda in Leon: The Professional. The biggest concern they had was the amount of gratuitous violence in the film, not to mention the fact that the Matilda character smokes, meaning that Portman would have to as well.

Natalie Portman FactsLéon: The Professional, Les Films du Dauphin

2. Laying Down the Rules

The only way Portman’s parents were able to reach an agreement with Leon: The Professional director Luc Besson regarding the part that smoking would have in her role was to reduce the number of smoking scenes down to five. They demanded that Natalie would never be seen inhaling or exhaling the cigarette and that her character would kick the habit by the end of the movie.

Natalie Portman FactsLéon: The Professional, Les Films du Dauphin

1. Girl Crush

Portman has outwardly expressed interest in wanting to grab Scarlett Johansson’s breasts—she thinks they’re really pretty.

Natalie Portman FactsGetty Images

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.