Stecyk

My (Double) Life as a Black Swan - By Sarah Lane

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My (Double) Life as a Black Swan

I know that some people are getting very defensive about “Black Swan” and my role in it, but back-stabbing is not my purpose when people ask me about the legitimacy of the dance shots in the movie. I only care to speak the truth. The truth is that no one, not Natalie Portman, or even myself can come anywhere close to the level of a professional ballerina in a year and a half. Period.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t admire Natalie and her acting. She is so talented and can inspire people, as well, with her own art form. She did an amazing job portraying her character in “Black Swan.” (Though the movie wasn’t a completely realistic reflection of ballet or dancers.)

Sarah Lane, the dancing double in the movie Black Swan, wrote an excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal.

This link might be behind a subscription wall. If it is, try Googling the title, with or without the quotes, "My (Double) Life as a Black Swan". Often from Google, you can bypass the subscription wall. The same applies to NY Times articles as well.

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Thank you, Stecyk - excellent piece, and I thought very restrained. It was not behind a subscription wall.

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Bonnette, I enjoyed Ms. Lane's well written article, so I thought others here would enjoy it too. WSJ has been providing more coverage to dance recently. Given all the negative attention Lane's comments have received in recent days, I am surprised she took the time and effort to respond to the WSJ's request. I am happy, however, that she did.

I am glad that you found her article excellent and that it was not behind a subscription wall. Thank you for your comments.

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I liked this:

"My only wish is that Natalie, Darren and certain others who worked closely on the movie, could have grasped the beauty and the heart of true ballet."

Amen. We all know the movie wasn't "about" ballet as they continue to stress, but some respect for the art form if you are using it as the mode to tell your story would have been lovely. The arts industry, especially ballet, is in such dire straits in this country it would have been great if any of the stars/director/producers would have thought to use their platform (even if just on the PR side of things!!) in some way to show people the beauty of the art.

I think Lane has proved herself to be a true class act in all of this.

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I liked this:

"My only wish is that Natalie, Darren and certain others who worked closely on the movie, could have grasped the beauty and the heart of true ballet."

Amen. We all know the movie wasn't "about" ballet as they continue to stress, but some respect for the art form if you are using it as the mode to tell your story would have been lovely. The arts industry, especially ballet, is in such dire straits in this country it would have been great if any of the stars/director/producers would have thought to use their platform (even if just on the PR side of things!!) in some way to show people the beauty of the art.

I think Lane has proved herself to be a true class act in all of this.

Yes, I agree with all that you have written, and with everything Ms. Lane says in the piece.

Parenthetically, The Daily Beast has a good article about what the author calls "the death of the triple threat," which is among the issues Ms. Lane raises in her WSJ piece.

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Natalie Portman finally responds to all of this:

"You know, I, it's it's....um...I know what went on. We, we had an amazing experience making the movie and I don't want to tarnish it by entering into nastiness, because it's such a positive thing what we get to do. We get to create things. I feel so lucky to be part of that, and um, I'm so proud of everyone's work on that movie and my experience. And I'll have that forever. And and and and and it's important for me to remember that no matter what nastiness is going around."

Video here: http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/b235053_Natalie_Portman_Dishes_on_the_Black_Swan_Ballet_Battle_.html

I think poorly played, Natalie. How hard is it to say, "I did not do the majority of the dancing. The dance doubles did, and I appreciate the work they did that let me portray such a believable character*."

*Obviously a believable character in their warped world

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Apart from being inarticulate, I think Portman's response was appropriate. Why should she engage in a war of words with Sarah Lane? That would not benefit Portman in any way. If Lane wanted more accurate or extensive credit in the film, shouldn't she (or her agent) have negotiated for that in her contract when she agreed to do the film?

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I’m not sure what part of the “double” concept Sarah Lane doesn’t understand and I’m sorry she didn’t receive the degree of personal publicity she believes was her due, but I’m inclined to agree with abatt. I doubt there will be a next time for Lane but if there is she will know better when it’s time to sign on the dotted line. I note that in the item linked to in the original post Lane seems to be dialing it back a bit, beefing less about the wrongs done to Sarah Lane and more about the wrongs done to ballet. (Uh, Sarah, did you read the script?) Lane did receive a fair amount of acknowledgment from Portman when the actress was giving interviews on the subject. I can imagine how annoying much of the publicity about Natalie the Ballerina must be to Lane and I sympathize -- up to a point.

Given the very limited amount of “dancing” in the finished film, the whole dispute becomes even weirder.

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Somehow, I don't recall Melissa Hayden complaining about Clare Bloom in 'Limelight'----

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I’m not sure what part of the “double” concept Sarah Lane doesn’t understand and I’m sorry she didn’t receive the degree of personal publicity she believes was her due, but I’m inclined to agree with abatt.

I haven't seen her ask for personal publicity, I've seen her object to her work being credited to Portman. It's one thing to agree to work behind the scenes so to speak. It's another to stay silent while people say you really didn't do very much work.

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I’m not sure what part of the “double” concept Sarah Lane doesn’t understand and I’m sorry she didn’t receive the degree of personal publicity she believes was her due, but I’m inclined to agree with abatt.

I haven't seen her ask for personal publicity, I've seen her object to her work being credited to Portman. It's one thing to agree to work behind the scenes so to speak. It's another to stay silent while people say you really didn't do very much work.

I think it goes even further than that. Natalie Portman won an oscar for her portrayal of a ballet dancer. A portrayal which included - in case anyone missed it - (the idea of) a magical transformation from standard issue 'pretty Hollywood actress' to the 'amazing ballet dancing pretty Hollywood actress'. At least it did in the (non ballet going) general public's perception. That transformation (however vaguely or not so vaguely insinuated) was, whether Portman and co admit it or not, a part of the magical appeal of the movie and it presumably helped (certainly didn't harm) her to get the Oscar. Or if she was going to get the oscar for it anyway (I now, I know ... how cynical of me!) the backstory of 'becoming a ballet dancer' certainly helped to justify that award decision.

Maybe it doesn't matter that Sarah Lane danced all the dancing scenes and she should stop making such a fuss over it ... but if it really doesn't make any difference then why didn't they credit Sarah Lane a bit more, why didn't Natalie Portman acknowledge her existence and thank her for her contribution when accepting the award (after all, the Oscar was for her acting only and not for Sarah's dancing, right?), why did the FX company re-edit the FX reel to remove all the head swapping CGI techniques used, why was Sarah Lane asked not to do interviews, and why Natalie's refusal (in the video linked a few comments up) even now to just acknowledge Sarah's actual contribution, and why the need for so much evading of the truth, resorting to that horrible kind of 'talking-randomly-with-an-air-of-sincerity-until-you-figure-everyone-has-forgotten-what-the-actual-question-was' speak which is so popular amongst sleazy politicians?

It seems clear that somehow an illusion was created about Natalie's dancing contribution - not just in the movie but outside of it too. And now that Sarah is coming forward and dispelling that illusion a bit by being truthful (which seems fair enough), they seem to be creating yet another illusion; this time of a crazy, hysterical, attention seeking, jealous, unprofessional dancer trying to 'spoil the show' (or similar phrase!) of a fellow artist just because she won an Oscar. Sour grapes and all that. Calling it a 'Ballet Battle' only reinforce that illusion and allows Portman's evasion of the truth to come across as justified dismissal of such amateurish whinging.

That's my assessment anyway FWIW! :smilie_mondieu:

Hollywood is a machine and it runs on and for money. The media and Hollywood are intimately linked and have a symbiotic relationship. One will always prop up the other. Always.

Therefore kudos (and extra bonus kudos) to Sarah for setting the record straight in such a dignified and professional way in the face of all of that.

As a side note, it's fascinating to see how the internet is something which definitely can now compete with the Hollywood/ media PR machine. I predict the internet will continue to dispel many more myths and carefully crafted illusions regarding Hollywood in the future. I mean big shocking ones. The kind that will leave people stunned! We shall see..... :FIREdevil:

As for Portman and Lane, there is one way this whole epic saga can be resolved once and for all.

A dance off of course! :toot:

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I think this has become such an issue because the Oscar campaign for Natalie Portman emphasized how she trained five hours a day for a year, and lost 20 lbs. in order to dance in this film. Yes, we all know it takes about ten years of training to become a dancer, and take it for granted that a double did the fouettes. As a result of the publicity however, many outside the dance world think that a twenty eight year old actress became a convincing ballerina in one year of training, ( including Academy voters, who are very impressed with that sort of effort.) This was the intention of the producer who told Miss Lane not to speak publicly about her work.

I admired Miss Portman's performance and felt she earned her Oscar through her acting. The producers efforts to credit her with the double's work were unnecessary, and disrespectful to ballet as an art form. As someone who did put in the years and years of sweat, I resent it.

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I recall Portman specifically stating in interviews when the movie first came out that she did not do the difficult footwork passages, and that a double did the footwork passages. Portman never mentioned Lane by name, though. I don't think Portman has ever claimed that she performed the footwork sections. I also don't think there is any dishonesty in her statements during interviews regarding the work she did to prepare for the role, such as losing weight and physical training. I don't think that anyone with any sense believes that Portman is a ballet dancer or could be one if she so desired, just as I don't believe anyone with any sense believes that Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg or Hillary Swank are, or could be, boxers even though they have played boxers to acclaim in films and had to train physically for their roles. I think Sarah Lane is being a bit disingenuous in purporting to stand up for all ballet dancers everywhere. If she were so concerned about the image of dancers, she would not have signed on to this ludicrous film in the first place. She took the money for the film appearance and signed the contract to be credited as Portman's double. It's too late to go back now and complain about those choices.

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I don't think that anyone with any sense believes that Portman is a ballet dancer or could be one if she so desired, just as I don't believe anyone with any sense believes that Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg or Hillary Swank are, or could be, boxers even though they have played boxers to acclaim in films and had to train physically for their roles.

Well, they may not have much sense, but after the film was released people were contacting Covent Garden and NYCB to find out when Portman would be dancing in Swan Lake. I wonder, were there similar cases of people expecting to see Stallone in a title fight?

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I don't think that anyone with any sense believes that Portman is a ballet dancer or could be one if she so desired, just as I don't believe anyone with any sense believes that Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg or Hillary Swank are, or could be, boxers even though they have played boxers to acclaim in films and had to train physically for their roles.

And you always read about how hard they trained, and I'm sure much of it is true - they work hard just to be able to approximate for the screen the level of skill they're supposed to have. The fact that Portman didn't make a fool of herself is tribute enough to her training. atm711 made mention of Claire Bloom and Melissa Hayden - Chaplin made Bloom attend ballet class every day and work hard at it, and Bloom wasn't called upon to do half of what Portman did.

Well, they may not have much sense, but after the film was released people were contacting Covent Garden and NYCB to find out when Portman would be dancing in Swan Lake. I wonder, were there similar cases of people expecting to see Stallone in a title fight?

There's not much you can do about the [really] credulous. Had those people paid more attention to what Portman said in her interviews, they would have had no such expectations.

I suspect that ballet is still very exotic to much of the public, and unfamiliarity has something to do with it, as well. They see a lot more of sports.

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I’m not sure what part of the “double” concept Sarah Lane doesn’t understand and I’m sorry she didn’t receive the degree of personal publicity she believes was her due, but I’m inclined to agree with abatt.

I haven't seen her ask for personal publicity, I've seen her object to her work being credited to Portman. It's one thing to agree to work behind the scenes so to speak. It's another to stay silent while people say you really didn't do very much work.

We shall have to agree to disagree, kfw.

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Here is the interview Dance Magazine did before the movie was released.

http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/December-2010/Quick-QA-Sarah-Lane

Sarah talks about the special effects and working with the director and actors.

"And how does it feel to be part of a performance that some critics are giving Natalie Portman rave reviews for? I’m not really looking for any sort of recognition. The process was a huge learning experience and I got everything I wanted out of it. But she deserves the recognition. She worked really hard."

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Well, they may not have much sense, but after the film was released people were contacting Covent Garden and NYCB to find out when Portman would be dancing in Swan Lake. I wonder, were there similar cases of people expecting to see Stallone in a title fight?

:rofl:

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I didn't want to re-read the whole thread again, but I will say this about Mr. Aronofsky's calculations (wherein he, and then Benjamin Millepied, claim Natalie Portman dances 80% of the film): His calculations are based on "screentime", so of course Natalie Portman would have more "screentime" than Sarah Lane, Ms. Portman is the star of the film. He also counted up neck up or shoulders up views ie. ECU's of Ms. Portman, or her pretty but vacuous face superimposed on Ms. Lane's body as her "screentime". This is NOT dancing. An ECU is acting, flapping arms are flapping arms, NONE of that is actual DANCING. I would like to know what would happen if he counted only the FS's, LS's, or CU's of Ms. Lane's pointe shoes DANCING, not Ms. Portman's neck-up acting.

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Apart from being inarticulate, I think Portman's response was appropriate. Why should she engage in a war of words with Sarah Lane? That would not benefit Portman in any way. If Lane wanted more accurate or extensive credit in the film, shouldn't she (or her agent) have negotiated for that in her contract when she agreed to do the film?

It's not important whether it benefits Portman or not to everyone. She and her fans have profited enormously from the film. If Lane wants to speak out now, I don't see why she shouldn't do so when she's ready to, it's not a legal matter to talk about it now even if contract negotiations in the past (of which we know nothing) may have seemed less impolitic. It's almost as if since Portman got an Oscar that should mean some kind of mystical aura was endowed, but it doesn't--my main point, I think, is that this would more 'politely' be discussed in, say, 2 years or more, after the afterglow had been given its full due. Lane didn't think that was as important as her facts, and so she didn't pay any attention to that. We say anything about films 10 or 60 years later, no matter how celebrated, and many of the new revelations may be unflattering. Lane's remarks don't value award-giving as much as they do matters of fact about dancing in the film itself. I like that attitude myself. Portman 'gave as good as she got' by responding in that 'non-way'.

It's too late to go back now and complain about those choices.

It's not too late, even if you think she ought to have done so earlier--and even if you're right that she should have done it sooner. The 'Portman spell' has been given plenty of due; after all, Lane could have done it even sooner. The Oscars are old news by now, and they're never more than relatively important news in the long view of film history and evaluation thereof.

But this is related to dubbing singers' voices in films (never done in live performance, as far as I know, and certainly not for long runs, except with enhancement by pit singers), and that's never hidden, although it does most often lead to the perception that the performance was lesser than those who sang (it usually is, but not always. However, I'm not sure I can think of a dubbed singer in a movie musical who won an Oscar, although there may well be one; Deborah Kerr was nominated for one for 'The King and I', and did win a Golden Globe for it.)

Agree with most of what GoCoyote and 4mrdncr said. Non-ballet fans of the movie paid no attention to Lane anyway.

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Somehow, I don't recall Melissa Hayden complaining about Clare Bloom in 'Limelight'----
She had little cause to, as she got her due credit. Likewise Bambi Linn and James Mitchell for their dancing in Oklahoma that Mme Hermine posted. In Black Swan, as noted elsewhere, Sarah Lane is credited as "Lady in the Lane," but not for her dancing. I suspect that all Lane wanted was acknowledgment for her contribution to the credibility of Portman's performance.
There's not much you can do about the [really] credulous. Had those people paid more attention to what Portman said in her interviews, they would have had no such expectations.
It all depends how closely one expects "those people" to follow the publicity. Casual film fans will not have been exposed to as much as, thanks to the keepers our Links forum, has been arrayed before us at BalletAlert!
[Aronofsky's] calculations (wherein he, and then Benjamin Millepied, claim Natalie Portman dances 80% of the film): His calculations are based on "screentime", so of course Natalie Portman would have more "screentime" than Sarah Lane, Ms. Portman is the star of the film.
And it's not the "arm flapping" that impresses the ballet-naive public but the fouettes which, despite appearances, were not executed by Portman.

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Somehow, I don't recall Melissa Hayden complaining about Clare Bloom in 'Limelight'----
She had little cause to, as she got her due credit. Likewise Bambi Linn and James Mitchell for their dancing in Oklahoma that Mme Hermine posted. In Black Swan, as noted elsewhere, Sarah Lane is credited as "Lady in the Lane," but not for her dancing. I suspect that all Lane wanted was acknowledgment for her contribution to the credibility of Portman's performance.
There's not much you can do about the [really] credulous. Had those people paid more attention to what Portman said in her interviews, they would have had no such expectations.
It all depends how closely one expects "those people" to follow the publicity. Casual film fans will not have been exposed to as much as, thanks to the keepers our Links forum, has been arrayed before us at BalletAlert!
[Aronofsky's] calculations (wherein he, and then Benjamin Millepied, claim Natalie Portman dances 80% of the film): His calculations are based on "screentime", so of course Natalie Portman would have more "screentime" than Sarah Lane, Ms. Portman is the star of the film.
And it's not the "arm flapping" that impresses the ballet-naive public but the fouettes which, despite appearances, were not executed by Portman.

I agree with carbro in all cases. I think the basic problem is that a lot of the pre oscar publicity stressed Portman's weight loss, hard work and progress in ballet, leaving the implication that she became the equal to a professional ballet dancer. Aronofsky could have left out the piques, fouettes etc, entirely, but he must have deemed them necessary to establish the character's credibility as a dancer. He now dismisses those scenes as few, but they must have been important or they'd be on the cutting room floor.

I think what Lane and other dancers would love is some acknowledgement that Portman didn't become the equal of a professional dancer.

I wish Millepied's statements would be clearer. I know he is in love and about to be a father, but if he had a ballet company would he hire Portman?

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Did Sarah Lane start the fuss? Or did Wendy Perron start the fuss? Wasn't it when Sarah Lane was asked to stop giving interviews that the bruhaha started to bubble up? Was Wendy Perron asked to hold off on the Sarah Lane interview?

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Here is the interview Dance Magazine did before the movie was released.

http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/December-2010/Quick-QA-Sarah-Lane

Sarah talks about the special effects and working with the director and actors.

"And how does it feel to be part of a performance that some critics are giving Natalie Portman rave reviews for? I’m not really looking for any sort of recognition. The process was a huge learning experience and I got everything I wanted out of it. But she deserves the recognition. She worked really hard."

Thanks, cantdance. I thought I'd seen that somewhere.

She had little cause to, as she got her due credit.

I think the total count of Lane's credits were three, and her name did come up. I'm reading that she was apparently peeved because she didn't get a mention in Portman's Oscar speech, which if true might account for the oddly belated timing of her complaints/charges.

As I said earlier, I do have some sympathy. I also think the studio bears some of the blame for too much emphasis on Portman's "dancing" as part of her role, especially in a film that isn't really a ballet film and hasn't much in the way of dancing. If Lane actually expected an Oscar night thank you then one is sorry for her. Whatever you think of Portman's performance, it's definitely hers.

He now dismisses those scenes as few, but they must have been important or they'd be on the cutting room floor.

You'd be surprised how much of importance can wind up on the cutting room floor. :)

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