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Stepping into the role of boss can be more than a little nerve-wracking. Now, imagine if one of your employees was a Hollywood screen legend. That’s the situation Natalie Portman faced as a first-time director working with Oscar nominee Lauren Bacall. Worse, the young actor-director and the star of movies such as The Big Sleep and The Mirror Has Two Faces clashed on set, with Portman admitting that Bacall “called her out” for her weaknesses as a director

Natalie Portman directed Lauren Bacall in the short film ‘Eve’ 

Natalie Portman and Lauren Bacall
[L-R] Natalie Portman, Lauren Bacall | Steve Granitz/WireImage; Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Portman might be best known as an actor in movies such as Black Swan, V for Vendetta, and Thor, but she’s also worked behind the camera. She made her directorial debut with the 2008 movie Eve. The short film starred Bacall and Ben Gazzara as an older couple who go on a dinner date. 

During a 2016 conversation with Annette Insdorf at New York’s 92nd Street Y, Portman opened up about working with Bacall. 

“I must be honest about it, she did not like me,” The Phantom Menace actor admitted. “But I loved her and admire her so much.”

Lauren Bacall sensed Natalie Portman’s weakness as a young director  

Portman went on to explain that Bacall — who she called “a total pro” — realized something about the young director of which Portman herself was not yet fully aware. 

“I kind of feel that she sensed in me what I learned later about myself, which was it was really hard for me … that I had a really hard time saying what I wanted and being the boss,” she said. 

Portman praised Lauren Bacall 

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge in The Big Sleep | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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Portman said it wasn’t until a few years later, when she was working on her feature-length directing debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, that she felt more secure calling the shots. The movie, which is based on an autobiographical novel by Israeli author Amos Oz, is about a Jewish family living in Jerusalem in the years just before and after the creation of an independent Israel. 

“It took me a few weeks to be comfortable saying, ‘I want this, I want that,’ she said of working on the film, which was released in 2015. “And when I was 26, with [Eve], with [Bacall], I did not do that. And she called me out on it. And was totally right, totally right.” 

Portman added that Bacall was “unimpressed” with her, but that she didn’t let that affect her performance in Eve. “[She] knew every single one of her lines, was amazing in every take, and did this very un-vain scene where she allowed herself to be seen without makeup,” she recalled. 

Eve would be one of Bacall’s last screen appearances. She died in 2014 at age 89. 

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