Between speaking at the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles and pointing out the all-male directing nominees at the Golden Globes, Natalie Portman has emerged as one of the most prominent representatives for #TimesUp.
In a new interview with BuzzFeed News, however, the Oscar-winning actress acknowledges that she has made some judgment errors along the way. Chief among them is her previous support for director Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977 before fleeing the U.S. to avoid sentencing.
Swiss authorities arrested the Rosemary’s Baby filmmaker in 2009 with the aim of sending him back to the U.S., and Hollywood responded by circulating a petition demanding his release. Portman was among those who signed the petition, whose supporters also included Harrison Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Emma Thompson, and Martin Scorsese. Nearly a decade later, the 84-year-old Polanski has yet to be extradited to face U.S. sentencing for his crime.
Portman told BuzzFeed News that she has since changed her view.
“I very much regret [signing the petition],” she said. “I take responsibility for not thinking about it enough. Someone I respected gave it to me, and said, ‘I signed this. Will you too?’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’ It was a mistake. The thing I feel like I gained from it is empathy toward people who have made mistakes. We lived in a different world, and that doesn’t excuse anything. But you can have your eyes opened and completely change the way you want to live. My eyes were not open.”
The interview also addressed Portman’s past collaboration with another signatory on that petition: Woody Allen. Allegations of sexual abuse by his daughter Dylan Farrow have followed the Annie Hall director since the 1990s, but the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements have renewed interest in the matter. Portman, who was in Allen’s 1996 film Everyone Says I Love You, now supports Farrow.
“I think there’s a direct connection between believing women about their own experience and allowing women to be experts of their own experience and every woman’s voice being heard,” Portman said. “Whether it’s someone talking about their work and not being listened to, or someone talking about their own experience of assault and being told that they don’t know what they’re talking about — I think there’s a direct connection between that. Of course, do I know anyone’s experience? No. But would I question a man who said, ‘Someone stabbed me’? Never! You know? I think it’s bizarre. We know that women are systematically not listened to, that victims of sexual assault are systematically not listened to.”
While Allen’s reputation and career have certainly been tarnished; his latest film, Wonder Wheel, was largely shunned, and actors like Greta Gerwig and Timothée Chalamet have distanced themselves from him.
Portman isn’t mourning, however. She’d rather focus on the women who missed out than the men who messed up.
“I don’t think [whether or not Allen’s career is over] is what the conversation should be about,” she said. “I think it should be about: Why didn’t Elaine May make a movie every year? Why didn’t Nora Ephron make a movie every year? Where’s the female version of Bill Cosby? Why don’t we see any Asian women in films? There’s so much art that’s being lost by not giving opportunities to women and people of color.
“Let’s not talk about what man’s career is over. Let’s talk about the vast art trove we’ve lost by not giving women, people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community opportunities — let’s talk about that loss for all of us in art. Let’s talk about that huge hole in our culture. I don’t want talk about ‘Isn’t it sad that this person who’s made 500 movies can’t make movies anymore?’ That’s not for me to decide. And it’s also not what I’m upset about.”
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