Natalie Portman

On this date in 1981, Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning actress Natalie Hershlag (known by the stage name Natalie Portman) was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Portman's ancestors were Austrian, Russian, Polish and Romanian Jews; some emigrated to Israel and others died in Auschwitz. Portman's parents met in the U.S. at Ohio State University. When Portman was three years old, they relocated from Israel to Washington, D.C., where her father earned a medical degree and became a fertility specialist. The family settled in New York City in 1990, where they still reside. Starting at age 13, Portman landed roles in several popular films, including "The Professional" (1994), "Heat" (1995), "Beautiful Girls" (1996), "Mars Attacks!" (1996) and the Woody Allen musical film, "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996). She gained international fame for playing Queen Amidala/Padmé in "Star Wars: Episode I" (1999), and had to skip the premiere to take her high school final exams. Portman reprised her Queen Amidala/Padmé role in "Star Wars" episodes two and three (2002 and 2005), and had powerful roles in hit films such as "Anywhere but Here" with Susan Sarandon (1999), "Where the Heart Is" (2000), "Cold Mountain" (2003), "V for Vendetta" (2006), "The Other Boleyn Girl" (2008), "Brothers" (2009) and "Black Swan" (2010), for which she won the Best Actress Golden Globe (2011) and the Best Actress Academy Award (2011). She won her first Golden Globe for her role in the 2004 hit film "Closer," for Best Supporting Actress. 

Portman, who has had several papers published in scientific journals, graduated with a degree in psychology from Harvard in 2003. In addition to her screen work, she is an accomplished stage actress, performing in "The Seagull" at the New York City Public Theater alongside Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman (2001), and playing Anne Frank in the Broadway adaptation of "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1997). The actress, who speaks Hebrew, has dual citizenship between the U.S. and Israel and attended a Jewish elementary school, says her family is not religious. When asked if she was raised religiously, Portman responded: "No. I didn't have a bat mitzvah. And we never belonged to a temple. We felt it was ostentatious to belong to a temple" (New York Times Magazine, "Screen Goddess," by Lynn Hirschberg, Dec. 2, 2007). Portman has said she would like to raise her children Jewish (Hollywood.com, July 10, 2006). While she has not stated she is a nonbeliever, she has said she does not believe in an afterlife.

"I'm much more like the product of a doctor than I am a Jew. I don't believe in [an afterlife]. I believe this is it, and I believe it's the best way to live."

—Natalie Portman, in an interview for "Rolling Stone Magazine," "The Private Life of Natalie Portman," by Chris Heath, June 20, 2002

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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