Natalie Portman doubles down on criticism of her beloved-but-controversial early movie Leon: The Professional. Released in 1994, Luc Besson’s stylish and action-packed Leon: The Professional introduced a new breakout star in then-12-year-old Portman, who played a young girl who comes under the wing of a brutal hitman played by Jean Reno. Leon at the time was an international hit that garnered critical acclaim, but the film was criticized even then for its sexualization of Portman’s character, a young Lolita figure named Mathilda who was shown, among other things, costumed as Marilyn Monroe and Madonna.
Portman has in the past discussed her own traumatic experience shooting Besson’s Leon: The Professional and dealing with the response to the film, and now the actor has doubled-down on her previous criticisms. Speaking to THR from the Cannes Film Festival, Portman first addressed 2018 rape allegations against Besson, saying she was surprised to hear of the case, which was later dismissed. She then went on to make new remarks about Leon itself, discussing the film’s complicated legacy. Check out what she said in the space below:
“It’s a movie that’s still beloved, and people come up to me about it more than almost anything I’ve ever made, and it gave me my career, but it is definitely, when you watch it now, it definitely has some cringey, to say the least, aspects to it. So, yes, it’s complicated for me.”
Portman Has Spoken Out About Her Traumatic Early Acting Experiences Before
Addressing the Women’s March in 2018, Portman shared some of her experiences as a young actor in movies, referring to the “environment of sexual terrorism” she endured at the time, and revealing that her first ever fan letter was a rape fantasy sent to her by a man. She 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. … 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. … At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world: that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect.”
The legacy of Portman’s breakout movie Leon: The Professional indeed remains complicated, especially given the later accusations against Besson, and particularly in light of revelations by the actor Maïwenn, who said in a 2018 interview that her own underage relationship with Besson was the inspiration for his film. For her part, Portman currently is making the rounds of Cannes to promote her role in May December, a film directed by Todd Haynes in which she stars opposite Julianne Moore.
This story originally appeared on Screenrant