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Natalie Portman: From Psychology Researcher to Screen Icon

Miss Natalie Portman is building herself a very impressive resume. Not only did she win an Oscar for best actress, she was the first Harvard graduate to do it. That’s right. Harvard. Not an a top online PhD program, not private tutors, but Harvard. It is something that cause many to wonder if she was really created by man.

Natalie Portman has a reputation for only taking on roles she believes in.

For example, Portman passed up the chance, according to IMDb, for the title role in Lolita (1997) because of her feelings about young actresses being exposed to sex in films. She also initially refused her role in the film Anywhere But Here, with Susan Sarandon, because there was a scene where nudity would have been required, but Sarandon wanted her in the film badly enough that the scene was dropped. Portman also has a reputation for acting beyond her years and for playing mature and edgy roles, as epitomized by Nina in Black Swan, which won her an Oscar.

Natalie was born Natalie Hershlag, in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1981. She lived in Israel until she was three, when her dad’s professional achievements brought him to the United States. Her Jewish heritage is very important to her; she is bilingual, speaking Hebrew as ably as English, and is a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. Because her parents are more secular than religious Jews, she did not have a bat mitzvah, but she attended a conservative Jewish day school through seventh grade to preserve her Hebrew and her “sense of Israel.”

In 1997, she portrayed Anne Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Broadway. She is said to have broken down and cried offstage because of her personal connection to the events. Most of her grandparents’ family perished in the Holocaust, including her paternal great-grandparents, who died at Auschwitz in Poland.

At one time, Natalie said: “I’d rather be smart than an actor.” Lucky for her, she doesn’t have to make that choice. In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard.

Natalie said to Vanity Fair in 2006 that she used to worry others thought she was at Harvard only because she was famous. But Stephen Kosslyn, who at the time was a Harvard Psychology professor and Dean of Social Sciences and for whom she worked as a research assistant, spoke highly of her in The Harvard Crimson: “It was very clear when she was a student that she is a very determined person and capable of focused effort over a sustained period. She is now demonstrating the results of that determination and focus.”

Natalie took on many parts after Harvard, culminating in the role of a ballerina on the edge in Black Swan. For this role, according to People, she had to undergo extensive ballet training, and work five to eight hours a day—“what real dancers live through,” she said. It paid off; she won the Golden Globe and the SAG awards for best actress in addition to the Oscar, though she said winning the latter was “insane.”

It was appropriate for an actress some have called “the new Audrey Hepburn” and others call “a Harvard graduate.” Who knows where she will go next.

Check out the Natalie Portman photo gallery below.

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