For their 10th annual “Reasons to love New York” issue, several famous types recently spoke to New York magazine about working with late director Mike Nichols, one of which was Natalie Portman. Natalie confessed that after she appeared as Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, it almost killed her career because everyone thought she stunk up the screen with her crappy acting (which isn’t really fair, since everyone stunk up the screen in those awful, terrible movies) and that without the help of Mike Nichols – who directed her in the play The Seagull – there’s a good chance she might currently be starring in a direct-to-Redbox rip-off of Sharknado called Weather-Based Airborne Shark Attack.
“Star Wars had come out around the time of Seagull, and everyone thought I was a horrible actress. I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me. Mike wrote a letter to Anthony Minghella and said, “Put her in Cold Mountain, I vouch for her.” And then Anthony passed me on to Tom Tykwer, who passed me on to the Wachowskis. I worked with Milos Forman a few years later. He said, “Mike saved me. He wrote a letter so that I could get asylum in the U.S.” He did that for 50 people, and it doesn’t make any one of us feel less special.”
Part of me feels bad for Natalie Portman, because even Star Wars fans refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Star Wars prequels (I myself like to pretend it was all just a terrible CGI dream I had once), so it’s too bad that Hollywood wouldn’t do the same and forgive her for such a crappy mess. Maybe that’s why Mike Nichols was so eager to help – because he was a Star Wars fan, and he just felt so bad watching her act opposite a damp piece of driftwood (Hayden Christensen) and a rotten Twizzler (Jar Jar Binks). “It’s not her fault! If George Lucas backed a dump truck full of money into your driveway, you’d probably agree to it too!“