Natalie Portman's latest movie was shot entirely in Hebrew. Even though Portman herself is Jewish, shooting A Tale of Love and Darkness was a challenge. To be up to that challenge, which she calls "the deepest and the most meaningful" experience of her career, called for some training and background that doing films like Star Wars: Episode 1 could not give her.
Natalie Portman says she found that depth and belief in herself, not on the set of her early films, but at Harvard.
The actress was asked to address the graduating class at Harvard this year, delivering the keynote address. She calls that opportunity "one of the most exciting things I've ever been asked to do."
Portman admits that she was a bit overwhelmed when she came to Harvard after doing Star Wars.
"When I came in as a freshman in 1999, I felt like there had been some mistake" and "that I wasn't smart enough to be in this company," she admitted to the assembled students.
"When I got to Harvard just after the release of Star Wars: Episode 1, I feared people would assume I had gotten in just for being famous, and not worthy of the intellectual rigor here," she said.
Natalie Portman said she came to Harvard determined to prove that she "wasn't just a dumb actress."
"It's easy to romanticize my time here, but I had some difficult times here," she said. "Being 19, dealing with my first heartbreak, taking birth control that's now off the market due to its depressive side effects…."
But her time there made her realize that she had more and deeper work to do in film than she had realized.
"I admitted to myself I couldn't wait to go back and make more films," said Portman. "I had reclaimed my reason."
Speaking of how her time at Harvard had steeled her for her future work, including that challenging film in Israel, she said, "All of these are challenges [in shooting the film] I should have been terrified of, as I was completely unprepared. But once there, I had to figure it all out, and my belief that I could handle these things was half the battle."