A Minute With: Natalie Portman on taking on an icon in 'Jackie'

By Jill Serjeant
Reuters
Actress Natalie Portman attends the photocall for the movie "Jackie" at the 73rd Venice Film Festival in Venice
Actress Natalie Portman attends the photocall for the movie "Jackie" at the 73rd Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new film about Jacqueline Kennedy, one of the most photographed yet private women of the 20th century, attempts to get behind her mystique by blending factual events with imagination in the week after the 1963 assassination of her husband, President John. F. Kennedy.

"Jackie" opens in U.S. movie theaters on Friday and Reuters spoke recently with actress Natalie Portman about her critically acclaimed performance. Following are edited excerpts.

Q: What was your perception of Jacqueline Kennedy before this film?

A: I didn't really have much knowledge about her at all. I really was very much, like most people, familiar with her through the image.

Q: Which of her many facets was the most challenging to capture?

A: Recreating the assassination. You have so much liberty when you don't really know what happened. When she is talking to the priest or her best friend, or to Bobby (Kennedy) you are free to play. But the assassination is so unimaginable and the Zapruder film (of the assassination) is so iconic that it felt very scary to do something that extreme emotionally which is constricted by reality.

Q: You did a lot of research. What was the most helpful?

A: Her 1962 White House tour for TV was very helpful. We recreated that exactly, shot for shot. I learned how to be exact to her cadences, and where she takes a pause, and also the accent. She did a whole series of interviews with historian Arthur Schlesinger to help define the (Kennedy) legacy.

Q: Was the Kennedy family involved in this movie?

A: No. I think we have all the respect in the world for them and I can only imagine that it is painful.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?

A: That's the beautiful thing of the film that (Chilean director) Pablo Larrain has made - it's not prescribing what you should think. You're seeing many different sides of a complicated woman. You see her strength and her vulnerability, her moments of being wild, her moments of being very controlled, her responsibility and her impulsiveness.

Q: Did you like her?

A: I think you can't judge your character when you play her, or else you wouldn't be able to. Now, having come to the other side, I love her. I have so much admiration for her and how she overcame this unbelievable tragedy and made a life that was really influential.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Trott)