My favorite movie of last year BLACK SWAN comes out on DVD and Blu Ray tomorrow (Tuesday, March 29). And how timely, there is a BLACK SWAN scandal accompanying it. I doubt Fox Searchlight, the movie studio behind BLACK SWAN is thrilled with the controversy, but it may increase DVD sales, as people will be curious to see what the brouhaha is all about. Sarah Lane, a professional ballerina, has been loudly complaining all over the press this past week about how there is a cover-up to make sure she doesn’t get proper credit for working as Natalie Portman’s body double in the movie. “Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie,” says Lane, 27, an American Ballet Theater soloist who performed many of the film’s complicated dance sequences. “All the other shots are me.”
Now there are a couple of issues here. For starters, if she feels she didn’t get proper credit for her work on the movie whose fault is that but her own? She was not listed in the film credits as “Natalie Portman’s Body Double” but rather as a “Hand Model” and a “Stunt Double” and “Lady in the Lane” (a brief walk-on role). If she or her management didn’t push for the better credit then that’s their fault. And why come out and bitch about it all now? Sour grapes? Or perhaps an attempt to cash in on the film’s popularity?
Secondly, the studio and most of the players involved have admitted to digitally grafting Natalie Portman’s head onto Lane’s body throughout the movie. A montage showing exactly how that special effect and countless others were achieved in BLACK SWAN has been all over the Internet for months now. See for yourself at the YouTube link below.
Apparently, the DVD extras reveal even more tricks of the trades like this. And surprise, surprise, who knew, but actors don’t do their own dance scenes or their own fight scenes or sometimes their own nude scenes. So why is anyone surprised that Portman, despite training extensively to give off the superb illusion of dancing ballet, isn’t really all that expert at it? Does anyone out there honestly believe that even with a year and a half of training to look and act the part, Natalie Portman was going to be able to dance as well as a professional ballet dancer who’s studied for 20 years?
I’ve got news for any naïf’s like the complaining Miss Lane out there: Hollywood is an illusion factory. Robert DeNiro wasn’t taking real punches through most of the filming of RAGING BULL. Julia Roberts’ body in the poster for PRETTY WOMAN isn’t actually hers; it’s that of a fitness model. And Tom Cruise wasn’t really hanging off the cliff by just his bare hands at the beginning of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. Hollywood is expert at fakery, and those who don’t believe that might as well be sold that bridge in Brooklyn.
The very way that BLACK SWAN was shot lets you know that Portman isn’t doing it all as well. She is filmed almost entirely in close-up. There are very few full body shots. We almost never see her feet connected to the rest of her and that’s because most of the tough stuff simply couldn’t be done by anyone but a professional ballerina. The pirouetting, leaping off the toes and spinning with the precision of a top, those are all done by Lane. That’s hardly a secret, even while you’re watching the movie.
Portman is a superb actress but not a superb dancer. She didn’t win the Oscar for her expert spins she won for brilliantly conveying a ballerina spinning out of control. Her astounding trick was in showing us every aspect of her character Nina Sayers unraveling before our eyes. And the obvious body double work is also right there before our eyes as well. Sarah Lane thinks we’re too naive to notice. She’s the one who’s naive.