Why Natalie Portman Refused To Star in ‘Lolita’

Natalie Portman was offered a leading role in the 1997 film Lolita. But without much hesitation, the Black Swan actor decided to turn the part down. Instead, Dominique Swain took on the controversial role alongside Jeremy Irons. But why did Portman turn down the part?

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman | Patrick CAMBOULIVE/Sygma via Getty Images

When was Natalie Portman discovered?

Portman was discovered at the age of eleven while in a pizza parlor. The actor was approached by a Revlon cosmetics representative, who suggested she become a model. Portman found modeling to be too “mundane” for her taste. So instead, she decided to give acting a shot. Quickly, it became a passion for the starlet. Little did she know that she would end up making a lifelong career out of it!

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Her first film was The Professional, which she starred in at the age of eleven. And although the film was met with bad reviews from critics, it seems to have the most significant cult following out of all her films.

Portman tells W Magazine

“We got killed by critics, like horrible, horrible reviews. And it didn’t make any money in the US. But it’s still the only thing people come up to me about. It’s still the thing people tell me is their favorite movie. So it just reminded me that it’s the movie that speaks to people, not necessarily the impression at the moment it comes out.”

Natalie Portman had no interest in starring in ‘Lolita’

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

RELATED: Natalie Portman Opens up About Having Impostor Syndrome

When Portman was asked in an old interview why she chose not to star in Lolita, her answer was plain and simple. She didn’t feel comfortable playing a sexualized character at such a young age.

At the time, the actor was only around 13-years-old. And even though Lolita’s character is around this age, many people felt as though the book by Vladimir Nabokov had no place being made into a film. 

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Portman said in the interview, “I wasn’t willing to do that. It wasn’t the right thing for me to do at the time. I wasn’t willing to put myself in a sexual role when I was 13 or 14, and I still wouldn’t do it now. There was nudity and sex involved, and I think that there’s enough exploitation out there. It’s not necessary to do more of that.”

Natalie Portman’s women’s march speech proves how hard she tried to act ‘prudish’ for her own safety

Portman gave an incredibly powerful speech at the women’s march in LA. In the speech, she discussed how hard she tried to de-sexualize everything about her image in an effort to feel safe. As a young actor, she quickly learned that the only way for her to be moderately safe from predatory behavior was to hide behind a prudish role. 

Portman said, 

“I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe, and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort. So I quickly adjusted my behavior.

I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized how bookish I was and how serious I was. And I cultivated an elegant way of dressing. I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious, in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to.”