Portman accepting her Oscar for Black Swan. Photograph: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
A directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness (2013), based on Amos Ozs autobiographical novel, received respectful reviews. She has starred in some recent duds Knight of Cups, Janes Got a Gun but remains in the enviable position of toggling between lucrative blockbusters, such as Thor, and critically acclaimed fare with statuette-potential.
She has worked with A-list directors Luc Besson, Mike Nichols, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Terrence Malick but cites Larran, a Chilean, who may win Oscar nominations for both Jackie and the Pablo Neruda biopic Neruda (the latter in the foreign-language category), as perhaps the pick of the bunch. Pablo is one of the best, if not the best, director that Ive ever worked with. He has an incredibly original point of view. He sees things like nobody else. The directions he gives are things I would never think of myself. He knows how to create tension in every scene, and find humour in the darkness, or vice versa.
Cinema has a fetish for putting idealised women through the wringer, and in the process reducing them to victim or kick-ass hero, but Larran and Oppenheim allowed her Jackie Kennedy to be multiple, contradictory things, says Portman. She can be brave, and self-interested, and vulnerable, and super-tough, and sensual, and cold, and all of these things at once because thats how human beings are. A lot of films that try for a feminist portrayal will just make a woman be really tough. Well, thats not feminist because its not allowing the woman to be a human being. No ones just tough.
For Jackie, Portman dug out psychology texts and read up on self, identity and memory. It was so complicated for her to have such a public identity. But of course [it was] one that she put out. And one that was manipulated by others. Memory can further splinter a sense of self, she says. For instance, Jackie Kennedy apparently could not remember scrambling on to the back of the car immediately after the shooting. But there are images of that, so it happened. How terrifying it is to be in a state where youre doing something but cant remember it and the whole world knows it exists [yet] how quickly she overcame it. This survival instinct came in.
Portman bristles when people say the world would be better if run by women. No. Were human beings. There are good ones, there are bad ones, and everyone is going to be a mix of everything. We should know by now that female leaders arent inherently better people or inherently better anything. I dont think there are gender differences in the quality of work of anything as artists, as business people, as human beings. Its simply humans. And women have been excluded from many opportunities.
Hollywood, she says, is a major offender. Every year its exclusively male-directed, written and filmed movies that were talking about in awards season. Not that men shouldnt be making films, she smiles. I love watching mens films. Its just crazy that there is such a minority of womens voices out there. Everyone has a responsibility to promote inclusion, she says. If someone notices that theres only one woman at the table they need to make a change. Or if they notice that there are no minorities getting prominent roles in film they need to make a change.
Portman says she would love to direct again, but first things first. I will be having some maternity leave. I need to write, to take some time, get a little focus.
With Rogue One spinning the Star Wars franchise back in time, Portman could, in theory, return as Queen Amidala, a comeback likely to cause ripples in the force given the prequels unloved status. She has not seen Rogue One (Not yet; Im dying to) and at first sounds noncommittal about a return to the role. No one has approached me about it at all, as far as I know.
Would she accept an invitation? Of course I feel very lucky to have been part of the Star Wars universe and the mythology thats close to many peoples lives. So she would accept? I think theyre doing an amazing job extending the films. Sure.
Jackie is released in the UK on 20 January.