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My (Double) Life as a Black Swan - By Sarah LaneWall Street Journal - SPEAKEASY blog


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#1 Stecyk

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 04:58 AM

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.

#2 Bonnette

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:16 AM

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

#3 Stecyk

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:26 AM

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.

#4 ksk04

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 09:50 AM

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.

#5 Bonnette

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 10:16 AM

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.

#6 ksk04

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 12:37 PM

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.c...et_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

#7 abatt

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 01:17 PM

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?

#8 dirac

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 03:58 PM

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.

#9 atm711

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 03:46 AM

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

#10 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 05:20 AM



#11 kfw

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 06:12 AM

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.

#12 GoCoyote!

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 08:52 AM


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:

#13 LiLing

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:25 AM

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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#14 abatt

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 10:09 AM

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.

#15 volcanohunter

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 10:19 AM

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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