Natalie Portman Talked About How "Being Sexualized As A Child" Made Her Feel "Afraid"

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Natalie Portman’s had an incredible career thus far as an actor — and she’s been at it since she was 13 years old, too.

Natalie Portman attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California

Amy Sussman / Getty Images

But acting at such a young age came with its perils, as Portman recently discussed with Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast.

BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, Natalie Portman, 1996

Miramax / courtesy Everett Collection

Portman specifically discussed her performance in the 1996 film Beautiful Girls, in which her 13-year-old character and an adult played by Timothy Hutton develop feelings for each other.

BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, Timothy Hutton, Natalie Portman, 1996

Miramax / courtesy Everett Collection

The 39-year-old actor went on to tell Shepard that she felt as if the film were portraying her character as a “Lolita figure.”

BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, Natalie Portman, Timothy Hutton, 1996.

Miramax / courtesy Everett Collection

“Being sexualized as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid,” she said. “The way I could be safe was to be like, ‘I’m conservative,’ and ‘I’m serious and you should respect me,’ and ‘I’m smart,’ and ‘Don’t look at me that way.'”


Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans / courtesy Everett Collection

“But at that age, you do have your own sexuality, and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things, and you do want to be open.”


20th Century Fox Film Corp. / courtesy Everett Collection

“But you don’t feel safe, necessarily, when there’s older men that are interested, and you’re like, ‘No, no, no, no.'”

ANYWHERE BUT HERE, Natalie Portman, 1999

20th Century Fox / courtesy Everett Collection

Portman also revealed that these early experiences affected the roles she chose, as well as her own fears of how she would be perceived.

WHERE THE HEART IS, Natalie Portman, 2000

20th Century Fox / courtesy Everett Collection

“When I was in my teens, I was like, ‘I don’t want to have any love scenes or make-out scenes,'” she said. “I would start choosing parts that were less sexy, because it made me worried about the way I was perceived and how safe I felt.”

COLD MOUNTAIN, Natalie Portman, 2003

Miramax / courtesy Everett Collection

Of course, Portman’s built an amazing career for herself since, including starring roles in the Thor franchise and a Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan. But it’s, as ever, frustrating to hear about the ways in which young women are treated in Hollywood. Here’s hoping that things are in the process of changing.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD, Natalie Portman, 2013

Walt Disney Co. / courtesy Everett Collection


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