Natalie Portman or body double: who cares?

The prima ballerina used as a dance double for Natalie Portman in the movie ‘Black Swan’ is upset and wants the world to know that she did most of the legwork.

So Sarah Lane, a soloist with the American Ballet Theater, went on ABC’s 20/20  Friday night to expose that she was told to keep her mouth shut, that producers were trying to make it seem as if Portman became a ballerina within a year.

“They’re trying to create this image – this facade really – that Natalie had done something extraordinary, something that’s pretty much impossible,” she said in the interview.

It seems she became inflamed when director Darren Aronofsky said publicly that Portman did about 80 percent of the dance shots in the movie.

“I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that’s 80 percent Natalie Portman,”  he said in a statement released by Fox Searchlight Studios.

Lane has now blown the lid on Hollywood special effects technology.  OMG: do you think that’s how they might get away with using stuntmen in action movies?  Next, you’re going to tell me  Geoffrey Rush and Adrien Brody didn’t play the piano in every shot in their Oscar-winning roles Shine and The Pianist.

Lane said Portman deserves the Oscar and did an amazing job acting in the film.  How nice.

“I’m speaking because [the filmmakers] are completely lying about the amount of dancing Natalie did in the movie,” Lane said. When those incorrect things are coming out, and they threaten the entire principle of ballet, then I feel like I need to say something.”

I have tremendous respect, and appreciation for Ms. Lane’s dancing and for the greater art of ballet.  But please stop playing the Oscar-whining prima ballerina and let the rest of us enjoy the film without deconstructing it.  It’s like dining at the finest restaurant and having to listen to how they make the sausage.


It pains me that the biggest body-double controversies in modern cinema have been sparked by women who want credit.  In 1983 Marine Jahane, a French actress,  made sure the world knew she was Jennifer Beales’ body double in Flashdance after neither her name nor her role appeared in the credits.  At the time, producers claimed Paramount Pictures had, whoops, shortened the closing credits.

In 1980, so much attention was given the use of a stand-in for Angie Dickinson in the opening shower scene of Dressed to Kill, that director Brian De Palma was inspired to make his next thriller, Body Double.

I wonder: is the sexism because women have larger egos or because they are still fighting for every inch in a male-dominated industry? Or is this simply an anomaly.


The Great Ricky Jay

The New York Times has called him the greatest living magician.  He has dazzled audiences around the world on stage, in film and on tv.   He has taken his sleight-of-hand performances even to Broadway.

It is fair to say Ricky Jay has a healthy ego.  So it might also surprise you to learn that he has probably passed up at least a  few opportunities for Oscar consideration for his secret work in films.

Yes, he takes credit for his acting roles.  You may have seen him perform in  House of Games (1987), Boogie Nights (1997), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Magnolia (1999),  Heist (2001),  The Prestige (2006).  Or you might know him from HBO’s Deadwood (2004) where he also wrote episode 11, “This Jewel Boot’s Made For Walkin.”

But you’ll never see Ricky Jay as anything more than discrete “consultant” for the illusions he brings to films through his firm, Deceptive Practices. I only know because a member of my own family does business with him.

If you follow films, I’m sure you’ve heard of Rick Baker who won an Oscar this year his special make-up effects in The Wolfman.  He’s got six others at home for his other films (except for Planet of the Apes, in my opinion, one of the greatest illusions ever in film.)

You certainly know about all the spectacular effects produced by George Lucas and James Cameron, many of which revolutionized the film industry. But I bet you’ve never heard a word of what Ricky Jay does behind the scenes or how.  You’ll never see a  “making of,”  “behind the scenes” or any publicity surrounding his secret role in any of his films.  And that’s the way he likes it.

We’ll never tell, either. We still believe in magic.