Stecyk

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

69 posts in this topic

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.

According to the Wendy Perron blog post that seemed to get this "controversy" rolling, Lane had already read the writing on the wall and wasn't expecting a mention in Portman's Oscar speech.

I asked her if she was expecting to be thanked when she heard Portman reel off 10 or 20 other names during her acceptance speech. Lane said no, because a Fox Searchlight producer had already called to ask her to stop giving interviews until after the Oscars. "They were trying to create this facade that she had become a ballerina in a year and a half," she said. "So I knew they didn't want to publicize anything about me."
http://www.dancemagazine.com/blogs/wendy/3741

She said much the same thing in the Wall Street Journal.

Were you upset on Oscar night that you weren't thanked by Portman from the podium as a lot of people were?

I wasn't upset, because I knew that she wasn't going to thank me. I already knew what was going on, so I didn't expect it. Of course I feel like I was cheated a little bit. I understand that they had to do what they had to do politically to make a low-budget movie an Oscar movie. And I know that it wasn't necessarily a personal thing. Unfortunately I was the one, and ballet itself, that was discredited.

http://www.dancemagazine.com/blogs/wendy/3741

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Dunno what to tell you, volcanohunter. I quite agree with the quotes around "controversy." If actual spouses have to adjust to not getting mentioned on Oscar night, I guess doubles can cope with it, too. :)

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Ms. Lane was paid $4000 / day week (edited) for her double work, for a 6 week period, during her break from the ABT season. I am sure it helped soothe the pain and pay the rent.

While a few people may be silly enough to call in asking if Natalie Portman will dance in Royal Ballet's "Swan Lake" - those people don't vote for Oscar winners. In fact, most academy members don't vote. Only members with acting credits get to vote. No directors, no cinematographers, etc get to vote for "Best Actor/Actress". Only Ms. Portman's fellow thespians voted, and they liked her best. These thespians - better than anyone - know that doubles are a part of the business - whether for stunts, nudity, dancing, or other feats of daring. These same thespians also voted for Christian Bale for best supporting actor in "The Fighter" (another actor who lost weight and trained relentlessly). And a boxing double was used for some of his scenes. This same boxing double is not whining to the press that an "illusion" has been created that Christian Bale became a professional boxer with a year of training.

I've seen pictures of Ms Lane on set, wearing the "spots" (for lack of a better term) on her face, these markings are used later to drop in Ms. Portman's face into the shot. So she knew exactly why she was on set, and what they would do to her face with CGI (or whatever the proper term is).

If "best performance by an actress" was based on dancing skills, then surely many amazing performances by principals in the Live Broadcasts of ballet productions would be nominated for "best actress" - correct? After all, Diana Vishneva both dances and acts on stage (which is broadcast around the world). Still, the Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences chose to recognize Ms. Portman instead.

Most of the "dancing" shots in "Black Swan" are shown from the waist up (which probably was Ms. Portman - because most of the criticism by professional dancers of the movie discussed Ms. Portman's amateur neck and posture). Is Ms. Lane claiming those shots of dancing - which were so heavily criticized by her colleagues? The remaining dancing shots are the full body and feet-only shots, which Ms. Portman has openly stated were the dancing double.

Tempest in a teapot. But all PR is good PR, and "Black Swan" is freshly minted on DVD. Ms. Lane's whining probably made the production team a few extra dollars in DVD sales. :)

ok - edited for the correction to the pay scale per week. I knew this at the time and simply typed it incorrectly in my haste to get my thoughts typed as quickly as possible. Thanks to those who caught the error!

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Ms. Lane was paid $4000 / day for her double work, for a 6 week period, during her break from the ABT season.

:jawdrop: And that's considered a "low budget" film! I can't imagine what a "high budget" film would pay. I like Sarah Lane and think she should be receiving more opportunities at ABT. Let's hope she can channel some of this energy into convincing Kevin to give her a lead role, instead of the usual Amour, peasant pas and Bluebirds that she has been doing for years.

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Ms. Lane was paid $4000 / day for her double work, for a 6 week period, during her break from the ABT season. I am sure it helped soothe the pain and pay the rent.

How Much Did Dance Double Sarah Lane Earn for ‘Black Swan’? Wall Street Journal 28 March 2011

Lane said via email a few minutes ago that she earned “$4000 per week before taxes so after taxes it was about $2000 plus a little overtime.”

I don't mean to ruin a really good story with a few cold hard facts, but Ms. Lane did not make off like a bandit.

Given her work and her years of dedication, a few well placed kind words acknowledging Ms. Lane's efforts and accomplishments would have gone a long way.

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I thought I read $4000 a week. Anyone know for sure?

Totally agree that Lane should be given more at ABT

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I thought I read $4000 a week. Anyone know for sure?

Totally agree that Lane should be given more at ABT

Re pay, see second quote in the post before yours (post 30):

And yes, you are correct.

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$24,000 for six weeks work is not very much in the budget of a film or life of a professional (who may still have 100,000 in student loans) and it shouldn't effect the right to address an injustice. I think Portman's term "nastiness" mischaracterizes the incident - if so it's on the other side.

The problem is that ballet is an art where it's difficult to tell an untruth. What a dancer does on stage, how they get from point a to point b, is brutal honesty, and there for everyone to examine unmediated. Movies to a great extent are composed of lies - of "cheating for the camera" and of all sorts of little compensations for reality. Pasting an actress's head on a dancer's body seems fairly grotesque to me (I haven't seen the movie), and of a different order than lip syncing. The comparison to boxing and other sports falls short as they don't have the precise vocabulary that ballet - and other traditional forms of dancing - do.

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The problem is that ballet is an art where it's difficult to tell an untruth. What a dancer does on stage, how they get from point a to point b, is brutal honesty, and there for everyone to examine unmediated. Movies to a great extent are composed of lies - of "cheating for the camera" and of all sorts of little compensations for reality. Pasting an actress's head on a dancer's body seems fairly grotesque to me (I haven't seen the movie), and of a different order than lip syncing. The comparison to boxing and other sports falls short as they don't have the precise vocabulary that ballet - and other traditional forms of dancing - do.

I think what you've said is brilliant. That first sentence nails it (for me, anyway).

In a perfect world, Portman would have acknowledged her debt to Lane in terms of the dancing involved - Portman's acting ability in the film does not seem to be in dispute. But even her closeups fail to pass the believability test for me, which should at least have been part of a successful performance based on - if not about - the ballet. She can't make me believe her in the role, because she neither looks the part nor moves her arms in a balletic (or even graceful) way. When questioned, a simple statement from Portman to the effect that she could only aspire to do justice to the skill, hard work and dedication of real-life dancers would have sufficed.

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While a few people may be silly enough to call in asking if Natalie Portman will dance in Royal Ballet's "Swan Lake" - those people don't vote for Oscar winners. In fact, most academy members don't vote. Only members with acting credits get to vote. No directors, no cinematographers, etc get to vote for "Best Actor/Actress". Only Ms. Portman's fellow thespians voted, and they liked her best. These thespians - better than anyone - know that doubles are a part of the business - whether for stunts, nudity, dancing, or other feats of daring. These same thespians also voted for Christian Bale for best supporting actor in "The Fighter" (another actor who lost weight and trained relentlessly). And a boxing double was used for some of his scenes. This same boxing double is not whining to the press that an "illusion" has been created that Christian Bale became a professional boxer with a year of training.

Just a slight correction, the Academy Awards are voted upon by the entire member body. The nominations are what is culled from each individual branch (aside from Best Picture, which everyone gets to nominate)

And Christian Bale didn't play a boxer, he was the boxer's trainer who had a drug problem (Wahlberg was the boxer). I did read an article wherein Wahlberg discussed his training regime (which he started about 4 years before the film's production, as he was a producer) and how he refused a stunt double and got his nose almost broken several times. Who knows whether this is true or not? I do know that it wasn't in every article mentioning The Fighter, as it seemed for Portman/Kunis and their training regime.

----

My issue is that there was a clear PR slant that involved the implication that Portman was a ballerina. Maybe not by Portman, but by whoever was handling the PR for the movie. Look at this speech by director Darren Aronofky accepting on her behalf for the BAFTAS, especially starting at 1:05.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ5Tn9TWSJM

"She became a prima ballerina" I mean, my god!!! The implication from him here is so clear and so far from the truth.

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Was Melissa Hayden ever recognized-(not only in public, but just in general)-for her same exact situation in "Limelight"...?

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Pasting an actress's head on a dancer's body seems fairly grotesque to me (I haven't seen the movie), and of a different order than lip syncing. The comparison to boxing and other sports falls short as they don't have the precise vocabulary that ballet - and other traditional forms of dancing - do.

Lane didn't seem to have any objections at the time. If you see the movie, the photoshopped shots are carefully handled - as mentioned previously, there is very little sustained dancing in the film, because Portman and Kunis were non-dancers and the goal seems to have been to use them as much as possible. If The Turning Point was made today, possibly something similar might have been tried for a few of Anne Bancroft's scenes. Obviously in the best of all worlds a dancer would play a dancer, but Black Swan was Portman's and Aronofsky's project and that was never in the cards. Without Portman it probably doesn't get made, for better or worse.

And Christian Bale didn't play a boxer, he was the boxer's trainer who had a drug problem (Wahlberg was the boxer).

Respectfully, that's splitting hairs a bit. Bale was playing an ex-boxer and trainer. I think the point was that Bale trained very hard and still a double was necessary. It's still his performance. And although I didn't follow the PR for The Fighter as closely as I did Black Swan's, I still managed to hear an awful lot about training regimens and weight loss.

Tempest in a teapot. But all PR is good PR, and "Black Swan" is freshly minted on DVD. Ms. Lane's whining probably made the production team a few extra dollars in DVD sales.

Yup. Great timing on Lane's part. :)

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$24,000 for six weeks work is not very much in the budget of a film or life of a professional (who may still have 100,000 in student loans) and it shouldn't effect the right to address an injustice. I think Portman's term "nastiness" mischaracterizes the incident - if so it's on the other side.

The problem is that ballet is an art where it's difficult to tell an untruth. What a dancer does on stage, how they get from point a to point b, is brutal honesty, and there for everyone to examine unmediated. Movies to a great extent are composed of lies - of "cheating for the camera" and of all sorts of little compensations for reality. Pasting an actress's head on a dancer's body seems fairly grotesque to me (I haven't seen the movie), and of a different order than lip syncing. The comparison to boxing and other sports falls short as they don't have the precise vocabulary that ballet - and other traditional forms of dancing - do.

Agree with all that, except the 'lip-synching' and that 'pasting the actress's head on the dancer's body is 'fairly grotesque'. They had to do that (or they wouldn't have), and I don't want to see the film either, I don't like Ms. Portman's persona AT ALL. But exactly right where the 'nastiness' is located, simply by using the word to refer to someone else, but SHE's not gonna do the nastiness, oh no, just keep harping on it, how SHE's not gonna do it. Really, her acceptance speeches were so silly, I thought. And 'what you get paid for something' indeed does not ever mean you shouldn't address an injustice, as you've said. Also good about the boxing and other sports, except it should be added that nobody ever even thinks that the actor (in this case Bale/Wahlberg) is doing any of it. This odd idea of making Portman seem more accomplished than she was was bound to backfire in some way, but I already ran this by a filmmaker friend who knows nothing about ballet, and he didn't think it was very important (he doesn't like Portman either, but thought a certain 'frigid persona' worked for this role) except that it did prove that without facts, or as you say ' movies to a great extent are composed of lies', which was why Didion/Dunne's essays on the ignorance of the process of movie critics (who go ahead and speak as if authoritative anyway) is still so applicable. Although what the reviewer usually 'can't see' is not dancing, but literally everything, at least compared to any live flesh-bodied stage performance, where you might not always know what a director or actor 'chose' or decided about what 'ought to happen', but you could see what somebody was doing right then at least. There's a certain mummification in film, that's part of it, of course.

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And Christian Bale didn't play a boxer, he was the boxer's trainer who had a drug problem (Wahlberg was the boxer).

Respectfully, that's splitting hairs a bit. Bale was playing an ex-boxer and trainer. I think the point was that Bale trained very hard and still a double was necessary. It's still his performance. And although I didn't follow the PR for The Fighter as closely as I did Black Swan's, I still managed to hear an awful lot about training regimens and weight loss.

Apologies then, I did not see the film and was merely going off what I knew from reading about it in the press which emphasized Bale's weight loss (undeniably done by him, to whatever end good or bad end) and Wahlberg as "The Boxer."

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"...She became a prima ballerina.." (Aronofky on Portman at the BAFTAs)

And spoken on stage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden of all places..... I'm surprised an alarm didn't go off.

But seriously, this remark sums up, for me, what is at the heart of the whole thing. That (for anyone who's actually interested, and I know many aren't particularly bothered) it is fundamentally all about the clashing of cultures. To pick up on Quiggin's sentiment a few comments back, I would say the Hollywood entertainment industry likes to create its illusions through deception and the world of classical ballet likes to create its illusions through honesty.

The deceptive approach leads to a more defensive attitude and behaviour (as demonstrated by the Portman camp) and the honest approach leads to a more protective attitude and behavour (as demonstrated by the Lane camp).

I'm sure I am over simplifying and I'm definitely biased in favour of 'ballet culture' (Hollywood culture leaves me cold) but there you go! I hope the world of ballet and the world of Hollywood (as it is today) continue to have little to do with each other as I can see only harm being brought to ballet and no good at all. But I know this is unlikely to stay the case - especially now that new technologies allow for Hollywood style illusions to be realized with increasing ease.

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"...She became a prima ballerina.." (Aronofky on Portman at the BAFTAs)

And spoken on stage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden of all places..... I'm surprised an alarm didn't go off.

But seriously, this remark sums up, for me, what is at the heart of the whole thing. That (for anyone who's actually interested, and I know many aren't particularly bothered) it is fundamentally all about the clashing of cultures. To pick up on Quiggin's sentiment a few comments back, I would say the Hollywood entertainment industry likes to create its illusions through deception and the world of classical ballet likes to create its illusions through honesty.

The deceptive approach leads to a more defensive attitude and behaviour (as demonstrated by the Portman camp) and the honest approach leads to a more protective attitude and behavour (as demonstrated by the Lane camp).

I'm sure I am over simplifying and I'm definitely biased in favour of 'ballet culture' (Hollywood culture leaves me cold) but there you go! I hope the world of ballet and the world of Hollywood (as it is today) continue to have little to do with each other as I can see only harm being brought to ballet and no good at all. But I know this is unlikely to stay the case - especially now that new technologies allow for Hollywood style illusions to be realized with increasing ease.

Thank you GoCoyote - Nicely put. You gave me a different way to look at the situation. One camp trying to defend the illusion and the other trying to protect the reality of what a ballerina is.

Do you think Aronofsky knew that Portman didn't/couldn't become a prima ballerina? I think probably if he had stopped to give it serious thought, but part of the hollywood deception is the super hype that people buy into. I remember reading that Lane thought they'd take care of her because everyone was very encouraging, telling her how great she was and cheering her on when she had to do difficult sequences over and over again while hitting her marks and wearing those dot things (don't know what to call them) on her. She was naive. She wasn't capable at seeing it through a "hollywood" hype lens, she was seeing it through a "ballet" lens.

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What a fascinating topic. I'm glad we didn't start with a Topic Poll, because it is clear that there a more than a few sides to this story.

On the whole, however, my sympathies are with Ms. Lane -- and with the Ms. Lane of this world.

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While reading the article on Sarah Lane's pay there was a link to the other body double stunt double who did fight scene and some feet shots. This interview was posted in November.

http://artsmeme.com/2010/11/21/meet-natalie-portmans-evil-twin-body-double-kimberly-prosa/

Thanks again, cantdance, I hadn't seen this one. The interview is with Kimberly Prosa. Nice article.

Says Prosa: “Natalie took class, she studied for several months, from the waist up is her. Sarah Lane a soloist at ABT, did the heavy tricks, she did the fouéttes, but they only had her for a limited time, a couple of weeks, so I did the rest of whatever dance shots they needed.”

“We filmed in New York.

“She [Portman] definitely put her work in. Just in a couple of months, she looked credible — all the dancers on the set were really impressed at how well she pulled that off — it was pretty amazing."

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I think the total count of Lane's credits were three, and her name did come up.

Thank you, dirac. I stand corrected. http://www.imdb.com/...ullcredits#cast You just have to do quite a bit of scrolling to find the other two ("dance double, Natalie Portman" and "stunt double"). Oh, the internet has made some of us soooo lazy!

.

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Just to note that credits listed on imdb.com do not necessarily match film credits. Virtually all information on imdb is submitted by users. Sarah Lane's official credits on Black Swan are “Stunt Double,” “Hand Model,” and “Lady in the Lane.” I don't think she's officially credited as Natalie Portman's dance double anywhere.

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Yes, those are the three credits I had seen. All the dance doubles were listed as stunt doubles, I think.

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over the weekend, the turning point was on television and i was kind of roped into looking. i was struck very strongly by how discreetly and carefully they tried to give the impression that anne bancroft was a dancer; she was, i think, rather naturally slim, but for instance, showing the top half of her at the barre and then showing similarly color-clad legs to give the impression that these were the legs that belonged to this woman; having her make some very limited hand and upper body movements, which she did quite well - in her dressing room, having her folding ribbons on pointe shoes the way a dancer would do it, in the "gala", showing her full body but only in "acting", not dancing, though she stood and did her limited movements very, very nicely - it made the focus, at least for me, fall more naturally on the story that was unfolding rather than on the question of whether that was anne bancroft or say someone like makarova doing the dancing - emma jacklin (her character) really wasn't shown dancing, just suggested. and of course, she was much older than natalie portman and as far as i know didn't really have any dancing background, so for me it was all the more impressive that in what they did show her doing, it really looked quite good. even natalie portman's much-touted 'dancing' history is limited, and at the age of 29, in terms of her ability, recedes far enough into the past to be non-existent to me. that's IMnot-soHO of course. :)

now i know it's not the same kind of story, but i thought all that was worth mentioning.

not to mention, i must add, that i really find it a terrible insult to the dancer who's taken 5, 6, 7, 8 etc. classes a week since age 11 or whatever, and gotten hired at age 17 and worked 10 hours a day for twelve years, to suggest that a 29-year-old who hasn't danced since she was a teenager with any kind of regularity can suddenly at that age pick it up, and regardless of how hard she works, turn into a "ballerina" in a few hours a day for one year. which they suggested with rather a heavy hand. they really wanted to people to think she had. at least that's how it sounded to me.

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Here is Sarah Lane appearing on ABC's 20/20.

ABC Video: Natalie Portman's Dance Double Speaks Out

Worthwhile viewing.

Thank you for posting this. I saw the segment on 20/20 and the GMA that was posted online. I think both times Sarah Lane presented herself in a very lovely way. Clearly her problem is with the notion that someone could become anywhere close to a professional dancer in a year or two. She is looking for respect for the art form. Later in the 20/20 interview when questioned about Natalie Portman, Lane answered that Portman was a beautiful actress who deserved the Oscar.

IMO the television interviews of both Jennifer Ringer and Sarah Lane have shown the world that there are beautiful, intelligent, real women in ballet. I'm not comparing their issues, personal styles etc. Just the fact that these two lovely women give a glimpse into the real people who work as ballet dancers.

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