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Natalie Portman Shares How Star Wars And The Professional Were Slaughtered Critically, But How History Has Turned The Tide

Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Sometimes a movie that is not up to par at the time it came out can generate a following as it ages, resulting in it being considered a classic today. After all, Hocus Pocus was given one star in Roger Ebert’s review, where he called it a “confusing cauldron” with “a lot of hysterical shrieking.” Now it’s been deemed a Halloween classic, and there's getting a Hocus Pocus sequel on the way starring Bette Midler and more familiar faces. Natalie Portman has shared about how she too has had some movies that were initially critically slaughtered, but are now considered classics.

The critics did not exactly love The Professional and the Star Wars prequels at the time of their release. Natalie Portman talked to Variety about how people still come up to her to talk about the Star Wars films and The Professional because they are considered “beloved” classics now. In the actress' words:

I mean, I had it with ‘The Professional’ too. It was slaughtered critically, and now, despite having been in Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ movies, it’s the main thing people come up to me about. That and ‘Star Wars’ are two examples of things that when they came out, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is a disaster.’ And then 20 years later — actually, 30 years later for ‘The Professional’ — it’s beloved.

Luc Besson’s The Professional was Natalie Portman’s feature debut. She was 12 years old at the time and played a girl who learns how to kill from an assassin in order to avenge the murder of her family. While there were critics who felt like this was a great debut for the young 12-year-old, other outlets, like The Los Angeles Times, didn’t like the sexualization of her character and that she didn’t have the emotional capacity she needed for the role of Matilde. Roger Ebert’s review laid out that the movie didn’t do a good job of dealing with the idea of a little girl in the middle of violent action. Now, though, The Professional is listed at #42 of Time Out’s top action films. This movie helped put this Israeli-born American actress’s name on the Hollywood map.

When Natalie Portman was 16, she was cast as the young Queen Amidala of Naboo who would eventually be the wife of Anakin Skywalker and the mother of Luke and Leia. However, The Phantom Menace has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Attack of the Clones has a better Rotten Tomatoes score of 65%, but numerous critics were not crazy about the dialogue or the acting. Revenge of the Sith was considered the best of the prequel trilogy with a score of 80%, but the romance scenes and dialogue were critically attacked. You would think that being in a hit franchise like Star Wars would achieve her the success every actress wants. Unfortunately, being in the Prequel Trilogy nearly ruined Portman’s career, as people were calling her a horrible actress who no director wanted to work with. 

It was hard for her to deal with the backlash as there was so much anticipation at the time of the Star Wars prequels. This makes sense considering that prior to The Phantom Menace, the last Star Wars film at the time was Return of the Jedi all the way back in 1983. Fortunately, the Prequel Trilogy has become considerably loved as a new generation of Star Wars fans are coming together to see the various follow-up movies and TV shows with their Disney+ subscription.

The Black Swan actress' next big project will be her reprising Jane Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder, with the character transforming into The Mighty Thor. This would be another big risk for this Oscar winner considering fans had their issues with Thor: The Dark World, but this time, we’ll see Jane as the hero of the story instead of being the hero’s love interest who needs to be saved. A storyline like this should be empowering and be another example that women have a place in the MCU to be superheroes too. 

Natalie Portman will also star in and executive produce Apple TV+’s adaptation of the Lady in the Lake series about a 1960s investigative journalist working on an unsolved murder. With the brilliant talent the actress brings, she can make any project she does a memorable classic.

Carly Levy
Carly Levy

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.