‘Black Swan’: How the Director Tried To Pit Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman Against Each Other

In the Oscar-nominated film Black Swan (2010,) director Darren Aronofsky tried to mess with Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman. He attempted to get inside their heads by pitting the two actors against each other. This was done to create more tension on-screen. Yet unfortunately for Aronofsky, Kunis and Portman were already terrific friends long before shooting. Because of this, his tactics to develop a headline-worthy catfight failed to work.

Natalie Portman, Darren Aronofsky and Mila Kunis
Natalie Portman, Darren Aronofsky and Mila Kunis | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis worried nobody would see ‘Black Swan’

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Portman confessed how worried she was that no one would want to see the movie. According to her logic, she feared there would be no audience for a “ballerina movie.”  

“Everyone was so worried about who was going to want to see this movie,” Portman tells the magazine. “I remember them being like, ‘How do you get guys to a ballet movie? How do you get girls to a thriller?’ And the answer is a lesbian scene. Everyone wants to see that.”

'Black Swan' on the streets of Manhattan on December 7, 2009 in New York City
‘Black Swan’ on the streets of Manhattan on December 7, 2009 in New York City | James Devaney/Wire Image

And luckily, the film got the attention that it did because Portman reveals she almost died while making Black Swan. The already-petite actor had to lose 20 pounds for the role and trained 16 hours a day to master ballet. In the process, Portman dislocated her rib and dealt with many other injuries.

Reportedly, because the movie’s budget was so tight, Portman couldn’t afford a medic and a trailer at the same time. Because she was so injured, Portman asked to give up her trailer so she could receive medical treatment. The next day, her trailer was gone. 

Thankfully, Portman went on to win an Oscar for her role, so all the pain must have been worth it in the end.

The ‘Black Swan’ director tried to get Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis into fights

Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman
Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman speak onstage at the TNT/TBS broadcast of the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Michael Caulfield/WireImage

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Portman and Kunis refused to let director Aronofsky get in between their friendship. In the movie, their characters Nina (Portman) and Lily (Kunis,) are rivals. At least in Nina’s mind, she thinks Lily is trying to steal her leading role as the Black Swan.

And while there is wild tension between the two in the film, there was nothing but love shared between the actors off-screen. Aronofsky would try and create a rivalry by telling Portman that Kunis was better than her. ‘Oh, Mila is doing really well on her stuff. She’s so much better than you,'” Portman tells Vogue. “Darren would tell us things about each other to try to make us jealous. I think he was trying to create a rivalry in real life between us.”  

The ‘Black Swan’ co-stars have an inseparable bond in real life

Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman
Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

According to Portman, she and Kunis have been friends long before getting their respective Black Swan roles. She reveals that they had spent so many nights together in sweatpants while binge-watching Top Chef. And then suddenly, they were learning to master ballet while working 16-hour days. “Mila and I had had ‘sweatpants nights’ watching Top Chef,” Portman reveals, “and suddenly we were on set together in tutus, emaciated and tired.”