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March 2011

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Natalie Portman’s ‘Black Swan’ Body Double Speaks — Bad Move Sarah Lane?

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Even though It’s gutsy when the lone wolf stands up to the big bad Hollywood studio, it’s also career suicide.  Sarah Lane is making the interview rounds to discuss just how much work she did as Natalie Portman’s body double in Black Swan.  Lane says Natalie Portman did only 5% of the work, contrary to the 85% claimed by  Benjamin Millipied, Natalie’s choreographer and fiance.  She claims she wants to clear this up, not because she’s jealous of Natalie’s success, but because she thinks it’s an insult to dancers everywhere to suggest that someone could become a professional ballet dancer in only a year.  She’s also unhappy that she’s not even credited as Portman’s body double, having only been mentioned at the very end of the credits as a “Lady in the Lane.”  Nothing pleases me more than defending the little guy, but I’ll make an exception this time around.  First, it’s really none of Lane’s business how Fox Searchlight Pictures (the movie studio) wishes to portray Natalie Portman’s dancing ability.  If they want to stretch the truth to make their movie sell, then so be it.  Sarah Lane was paid for her work, and that’s all she’s entitled to.  Furthermore, if she wanted to be credited as Natalie Portman’s body double, then she should have a long talk with her agent that negotiated the deal.  These things are worked out in advance, and it’s therefore not the studio’s fault for billing her as a “Lady in the Lane” —  it’s her agent’s fault.  And lastly, as previously mentioned, this is career suicide.  Do you think a major movie studio is going to hire Sarah Lane again after she exposed information they didn’t want released?  Probably not.  When you have a job, do your job, keep your mouth shut, and get out.  Let this be a lesson.

  • Olivia

    Coming from a professional ballet background myself, I was immediately astounded that Sarah Lane was not given more credit for her body double work. Speaking of, where was the Tony Award for the body double category? It was obvious to my trained eye that Sarah did most of the dancing work in “The Black Swan.” There is absolutely no way that even an actress could remotely pull off what would take a gifted person at least 10 years of professional ballet school to accomplish. I certainly give Natalie Portman credit on an ingenious acting job, and good arms in the dancing scenes; but she will never mimic be able to mimic the professionalism if a true ballerina in American Ballet Theatre.

  • Breezy

    I think as consumers, viewers, we knew there was a body double. But how dare she speak up about something that should have been negotiated from the beginning. It’s similar to a stunt double, and how many people know who the hell does the stunts? No one, they’re paid, pretty well from what I understand, and then they go spend their money.

    To me, Sarah seems like she is getting attention starved. Sure, I doubt anyone expected the movie to be such a hit, but that doesn’t change what her agent negotiated for her. Maybe if the “OSCAR” was for DANCING, I would understand, but it wasn’t, it was for acting. Yep, no studio will use her as a body double again, and I really hope this doesn’t earn her some fame, cause I’m pretty sure that’s what she’s going for.

    • Excellent points! No one knows who the stunt doubles are, and we just
      assume that the actors did all the work. It doesn’t take away from the
      acting when we find out they didn’t do the stunts, so why should it matter
      with dancing? She was jealous, felt the need to speak up, and has most
      likely learned her lesson. Or she’ll learn that lesson shortly.

  • kdancer

    Totally disagree with this post.  Your point is, “If the studio pays you, then there’s no such thing as the truth.”  That’s ridiculous! 

    Of course it’s gutsy.  I highly doubt Sarah Lane thought this would get her into another Hollywood ballet movie.  Not everyone makes decisions based on how it’ll affect their future bank.  The woman’s a dancer, she takes pride in her work, and it’s p*ssing her off to see someone else accept credit for it.  This makes perfect sense to me.

    If it’s actually true that the studio took 15/85 and turned it into 95/5, SL certainly has the right to create some fuss.  The studio, after all, had the option to keep their mouth shut on the NP/SL issue.  They could have promoted the film with a comment about how shots of NP and a professional dancer were combined to create a seamless image of a ballerina in torment.  If they lied, they lied, and they deserve to be outed.

    As far as the body double credit issue goes, yeah–I agree with you there, if duties & credit were arranged ahead of time.  But it’s possible the studio wound up using shots of SL in excess of what they had initially proposed.

    Is the author looking for a major studio pr job?  Cause it sounds that way. 

    (Great movie, btw.  I really loved it.)

    • When you agree to provide your services for a film, you do not get a say in how those services are used, or how the studio will choose to promote their film. That promotion may include lying or exaggerating. You are only getting paid to dance — and if you want credit beyond that, then it should have been negotiated by her agent before the film began. If this type of behavior sets a precedent, then anyone involved in a film can take the down the fourth wall and expose everything that went into making it — which would ruin the movie-magic. The fact that she’s not an actress explains why she would think this is appropriate. She clearly doesn’t know how the film industry works.

  • Kgraceart

    Personally, I don’t care how much work was done by whom.  It doesn’t matter, it is acting.  Portman is portraying a ballet dancer, not being one.  Two people performed the role, one was an actor, the other a body double, and body doubles usually don’t get credit.  Look up Marni Nixon. We didn’t expect Portman to be a prima ballerina, we just expected her to be convincing.  We don’t expect our stars to have the same talent as what they portray.  Sometimes you get exceedingly lucky to have a star who has talent enough that they can perform a role without assistance.  It is the lead actor we are coming to see. And that’s what filmmaking is all about – creating the illusion that something is real.  Avatar doesn’t exist, nor does Pandora, does anyone believe the flying fights in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,  do zombies really invade towns, do we get to travel back in time to see the real world of The Gladiator … and on and on … creating the illusion.  Let’s get real here for a second, filmmaking is smoke a mirrors, cgi, body doubles and more.   ‘Ignore that man behind the curtain’ (from the Wizard of Oz).