Natalie Portman: “I think you can’t judge your character when you play her, or else you wouldn’t be able to”

Actress Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman had been circling the role of Jackie Kennedy for several years before finally agreeing to make Jackie, a film focusing on the days between the assassination of her husband President John F. Kennedy and his funeral. Speaking with Reuters, Portman spoke about the challenges with playing the famous First Lady.

Portman reveals that the most challenging scenes to capture were the assassination scenes because of how much historical record there is of the shooting. She explains, “You have so much liberty when you don’t really know what happened. When she is talking to the priest or her best friend, or to Bobby (Kennedy) you are free to play. But the assassination is so unimaginable and the Zapruder film (of the assassination) is so iconic that it felt very scary to do something that extreme emotionally which is constricted by reality.”

She points to Jackie Kennedy’s famed tour of the White House that was broadcast on TV as one the most helpful resources for getting into character — and the filmmakers even recreated the broadcast for the film. Portman recalls, “Her 1962 White House tour for TV was very helpful. We recreated that exactly, shot for shot. I learned how to be exact to her cadences, and where she takes a pause, and also the accent. She did a whole series of interviews with historian Arthur Schlesinger to help define the (Kennedy) legacy.

The interviewer also asked Portman if she “liked” Jackie Kennedy. Portman responded, “I think you can’t judge your character when you play her, or else you wouldn’t be able to. Now, having come to the other side, I love her. I have so much admiration for her and how she overcame this unbelievable tragedy and made a life that was really influential.

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