A war of words between acclaimed ballet dancer Sarah Lane and the people behind the Academy Award-winning Black Swan is heating up. It all started with an innocent enough feature in The Los Angeles Times in which Natalie Portman’s fiancé and choreographer Benjamin Millepied claimed the star did roughly eighty-five percent of the dancing in the film herself. Lane, the body double, fired back arguing the real figure was around five percent. Now the producers have issued a statement to Entertainment Weekly somewhat verifying Millepied’s stance, saying Portman did “most” of the dancing. At the end of the day, does it really matter?
Sarah Lane would have every right to be pissed off if Portman and company were claiming no body double was used, but the reality has been the exact opposite. I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve read in which the new Academy Award winner has admitted she couldn’t master the most difficult moves and needed Sarah Lane to make those work. The whole point of training rigorously at a craft in preparation for a film is to make the audience believe you are who you’re playing. Numerous examples of this can be found in sports movies. Let’s take Slap Shot for example. I’m well aware Paul Newman wasn’t good enough to be a minor league hockey player, but because he has a fluidity to his skating, holds the stick correctly and seems entirely competent on the ice, viewers are able to buy him in that role. The same principal applies to Tin Cup. Kevin Costner is not a professional golfer, but it doesn’t matter. He worked on the arc and motion of his swing enough so that the shots of him playing seem realistic enough.
I wasn’t on the set of Black Swan. I have no idea what actually went down, but I’m fairly positive both Millepied and Lane’s figures are completely incorrect. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Maybe Portman did forty percent of the dancing, maybe it was sixty percent. I don’t care. She trained hard enough to make viewers believe she was capable in the full body shots, and at least for me, that’s all that matters.
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