I have waited quite some time to give my take as a professional ballet dancer on the movie Black Swan. Recent press regarding the controversy involving Sarah Lane (a beautiful American Ballet Theatre Dancer) as Natalie Portman’s “stunt double” has prompted me to break my silence. Having both experience on film and as a professional dancer I’m going to offer my perspective on the whole thing and how the dance world is so different from Hollywood.
After reading an Entertainment Weekly article written by Adam Markovitz, (you can read it here) it is clear that Ms. Lane is a bit upset over her role in the movie Black Swan. It seems that the producers didn’t properly define her role as a stunt double in the film. Unfortunately, being a stunt double is a very thankless job when it comes to academy awards.
Just as Lane is quoted as saying that Portman’s portrayal of a dancer is “demeaning to the profession (ballet),” I feel that Lane’s primadonna attitude in these articles doesn’t make the profession look much better. This primadonna attitude is exactly the reason why dancers have such a (excuse my language) bitchy reputation.
Could legal issues follow these accusations? Lane claims that though she was “told not to talk about her work to the press” there was no non-disclosure clause in her contract. So who advised Ms. Lane to speak up? Surely she has an agent. Surely someone went over the contract with her. I understand the work that Lane put into the few dance scenes that were in Black Swan, but I do not think it is right for her to slam Portman and the movie. This is something that should have been advised against, and if this is merely a business issue, why is it being aired out publicly?
On to the Oscar Controversy:
Whomever did the dancing in the movie is not the reason why it won an Oscar. I understand that some in the dance community feel that Natalie Portman won the Oscar for her “upper body” portrayal of a dancer, but if you truly watch the film you will see that it is far more than that. Natalie Portman received a much deserved Oscar for her work as an actress, not as a dancer. In fact, if you watch the movie again you will see that there really isn’t much dancing in the movie at all. Has Lane seen the movie?
So why the controversy? One thing that us dancers have is pride. Our profession feeds off of acknowledgment (think bows at the end of a performance) and acceptance. I think that Lane feels the need for a bit of closure since she didn’t get to take a “bow” after her performance as Ms. Portman’s stunt double. Slamming the movie you worked on and the actress who’s “acting” awarded her an Oscar is hardly applause worthy.
I have yet to read a response to this controversy by the ever poised Natalie Portman’s who’s dancer fiance Benjamin Millepied has spoken up saying that “85 percent of that movie is Natalie.” Will we hear a reply from her? Also, please do not see this as an attack on Ms. Lane or her dancing, rather a look into the business side of things. I am looking forward to seeing how this one unfolds.
This Blog post was inspired by the Entertainment Weekly Article “Black Swan double claims Natalie Portman only did 5 percent of full body dance shots in the movie” Written by Adam Markovitz. http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/03/25/portman-black-swan-double/