Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise; inset: John Shearer/Getty
Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky is weighing in on the controversy surrounding Natalie Portman and her on-screen "dance double," Sarah Lane. Lane, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, has been complaining in the press that she didn't receive proper credit for doing "basically all of the dancing" in the film. Choreographer Benjamin Millepied and Fox Searchlight have both responded by saying that Lane is mistaken, and Oscar winner Portman did a majority of her own dancing. Unsurprisingly, Aronofsky is also Team Natalie. But he actually had Black Swan's editor go through the film and count the dance shots.
"There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that's 80 percent Natalie Portman," Aronofsky said in a press statement on Monday. "The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second. There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement. Even so, if we were judging by time over 90 percent would be Natalie Portman."
As for Sarah Lane's claim that Natalie could not dance in pointe shoes, Aronofsky says that's nonsense.
"If you look at the final shot of the opening prologue, which lasts 85 seconds, and was danced completely by Natalie, she exits the scene on pointe," says the director. "That is completely her without any digital magic. I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor. Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don't want anyone to think that's not her they are watching. It is."
Portman's Black Swan costar Mila Kunis has also piped up in her pal's defense. "Natalie danced her ass off," Kunis tells Entertainment Weekly. "I think it's unfortunate that this is coming out and taking attention away from (the praise) Natalie deserved and got."
Kunis echoes Aronofsky's claims that Portman did most of her own dancing, using Lane only when absolutely necessary. "(Natalie will) tell you (that), no, she was not on pointe when she did a fouetté (a tough turn done on one foot). No one's going to deny that. But she did do every ounce of every one of her dances," Kunis insists. "(Lane) wasn't used for everything. It was more like a safety net. If Nat wasn't able to do something, you'd have a safety net. The same thing that I had -- I had a double as a safety net. We all did. No one ever denied it."
Despite this convincing testimony, Sarah Lane isn't backing down yet. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lane says she's telling the truth, and she resents the media portraying her as a greedy fame-seeker.
"I don’t want people to think that I'm here to trash Natalie and get fame for myself," says Lane. "I do want people to know that you cannot absolutely become a professional ballet dancer in a year and a half no matter how hard you work. I've been doing this for 22 years... Ballet dancers don't get the credit they deserve generally."
As E! points out, there are still some unanswered questions on the filmmaker's side -- like, if Natalie did all her own dancing, then why did the producers call Lane and tell her to stay away from the press? Why was Lane credited as an extra instead of a dance double? And why did the studio pull the YouTube clip that showed Portman's face being digitally replaced with Lane's? It does seem a bit shady.
But even if Lane is telling the truth, we don't think anybody would fight for Portman's Oscar to be revoked. Her performance was epic, and she managed to play a convincing ballet dancer on stage and off. 'Nuff said.