Academy Award-winning Actress Natalie Portman Teaches You How to Be the Best Actor You Can Be in This Acting MasterClassJul 15, 2020 | 0 Votes by Mel - rate One of the most talented actresses of her generation, Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is renowned for the level of maturity, diligence, and intelligence she brings to her oftentimes waifish, broken characters. And in this, her first ever online acting class, she shares with budding actors her personal techniques to create compelling, complex characters and how to build your own creative process towards delivering a breakout performance.
Introduced to the world at just 12-years-old via her breakthrough film debut as a child assassin in the 1994 movie Léon: The Professional, Natalie Portman has surprisingly never been formally trained as an actor even though she has been acting from the age of 10. Since then, she has appeared in numerous dramas and blockbusters, including Academy Award and Golden Globe winning turns in Closer and Black Swan, both before she reached the age of 30.
Although she has never attended drama school, Portman has used her own personal practical experience in the film industry as well as her innate talent for coaxing out multiple layers of complexity in her characters to build and mature her craft like no other actress of her generation. And now, for the first time in any medium—online or otherwise—Natalie Portman joins the acclaimed MasterClass educational platform to teach her own personal techniques for creating spellbinding, show-stopping, multi-layered characters—learned entirely through experience and research.
"You should be free to be creative, try new things and make mistakes. That is how I learned.” She adds: “In this class, I’m excited to share what I’ve pieced together over 25 years as an actress — things that have worked for me, things that I’ve seen work well for others, and tips I created to help myself.”
To begin this 20-video, 2.5-hour long Natalie Portman Teaches Acting course, Natalie presents her Introduction to the class by summarizing her repertoire of self-taught techniques that she has developed through her years in the film industry to prepare for a movie role, including: preparing for your character and mapping out your character’s journey; how to develop your character’s relationship to other characters in the film; how to relate to your director; how to audition; how to use your physicality to define your character; and more importantly, how to create your own set of tools and influences that will work uniquely for you.
Natalie doesn’t waste any time getting into the core philosophy of her craft: the process on getting to know your character through Character Development where she explains that it is essential that you understand the character you are portraying and work out the best way to convey this to your audience. In her modules about characterization, she covers the following topics in detail, including: understanding what makes your character tick, creating a character timeline; identifying the relationships that are most important to them; how to use research to get to your character’s motivations and behavior; getting your wardrobe and makeup right; finding the voice of your character; and how to use movement to reinforce your character.
She also advises breaking down the script and creating a character timeline not only to establish an expansive character arc but to work in smaller shifts so you can identify character changes chronologically on a scene level. Natalie also poses four questions for her characters in order to establish their psychology and how they interact in the world, in different situations, and with others.
Natalie then follows-up this lesson with a module on Character Research and the tools and strategies Natalie employs when it comes to creating her character, with examples from her roles in several of her films.
Next for discussion is the actress’s technique on Developing Your Character’s Physicality where she gives practical tips for getting the physicality of your character right, including using wardrobe and makeup to determine your character’s movements as well as getting into your character’s psychology to embody the role.
To demonstrate her technique in practice, Natalie spends the next two episodes analyzing scenes focusing on Physical Gesture where Natalie analyzes and deconstructs three of her favorite performances—Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and Meryl Streep in The Deer Hunter—that have inspired her and molded her own physical acting style. She also presents as a Case Study her own preparation for her Academy Award-winning performance in Black Swan where she trained with a ballet instructor for months.
Related to Character Development but tackled later on in the course in Chapter 15, Natalie also provides exercises that pull together everything that she teaches you about character.
Ever tackled a role that required you to speak a totally unfamiliar foreign language or accent? Then Natalie’s lesson on Dialect Coaching is a perfect demonstration of how one works with a dialect coach—in this case, her coach Tanya Blumstein as they collaborate to shape the voice of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for Natalie’s role in Jackie through everything from warm ups and vowel and consonant enunciation to facial muscle contraction and French accent exercises.
After this short detour on dialect, the actress returns to the other elements of the acting process such as Lesson 9’s segment on Working On Set and all the different emotional processes involved, everything from how to work with the camera and crew to how to handle your vulnerabilities and keep your energy up over a long day of shooting; and Lesson 10’s Working On Camera in which Natalie delves into her techniques for staying poised in front of the lens, from how to deal with multiple takes to maintaining emotional continuity and working with other actors.
Portman’s next three modules deal with how she Works With Directors and focuses particularly on the specific lessons Natalie had learned from Darren Aronofsky, Mike Nichols, Anthony Minghella, Pablo Larrain, and especially Terrence Malick, who is notorious for his unconventional, but brilliant, approach to filmmaking.
Natalie got her first opportunity at Playing a Real Character when she nabbed the role of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy for the movie Jackie. In Episode 14, she describes how playing historical figures or someone who is still living requires a slightly different approach that requires sensitivity and a need to balance both the private and public sides of the character. Natalie discusses how she stays true to the facts about her character while leaving room for invention and creativity.
For the last acting process-related modules of the course, Natalie talks about Improvisation, Green-Screen Acting (which she famously recalled spending a majority of her time on while shooting the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy); as well as Working with the Set, Props, and Camera where we get a glimpse of Natalie interacting with the MasterClass set designer and cinematographer – the questions she asks and the answers she gets give you a good sense of how her engagement with the crew brings the best out of her performances.
The Academy Award-winner then closes out her course with the last two chapters giving advice for auditioning, staying inspired, being an advocate for the people you work with, and nourishing your artistic spirit. She also encourages students to see acting as an exercise in empathy, to be playful with your role, not worry about making mistakes, and have fun above all else.
As with all the MasterClasses, Natalie’s video course syllabus includes assignments, exercises, and further research after each lesson via a PDF Class Workbook Available to download in individual chapters or in one complete PDF document, her assignments, in particular, are based on crafting a personal acting process, and include worksheets designed to get you thinking about, understanding, and connecting with the psychological complexity of the character you’re playing – even if you don’t currently have a role at the moment, you’re encouraged to pick a character you’ve wanted to play and to deconstruct them following the different worksheets.
Students are also encouraged to comment below each lesson and participate in “The Hub,” MasterClass’ exclusive Community forum where participants can comment to the exercises and share their work and ideas. There’s also an Office Hours feature where Natalie can view student works and questions and offer feedback (if she chooses to do so).
Natalie joins over a dozen other talented actors and filmmakers who have joined the MasterClass online education portal to share their entertainment experience and stories, including Samuel L. Jackson and Helen Mirren (Acting); Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Werner Herzog, and Jodie Foster (Filmmaking); Judd Apatow and Steve Martin (Comedy); and others whose courses you can also access in their entirety with your Masterclass All-Access Pass for just $180, which also grants you access to 80+ other MasterClass courses available from the most famous and respected experts in their fields, whether in film & TV, culinary arts, business, sports, literature, music & entertainment, science, and more.
MasterClass also has a Gift option where you can present your loved ones with either an All-Access subscription for $180 or a single course for $90. Whatever you choose, students can enjoy a 30-day refund policy for both packages if you are unsatisfied with the platform for any reason at all.
As a young actress who managed to reach A-list status in her teens, won multiple acting awards before the age of 30, and has 40+ movies to her name; Natalie Portman proves that you don’t need an expensive drama academy degree to make it in Hollywood. Natalie makes a perfect instructor for MasterClass as she embodies the very concept of their self-taught online education platform. For just $180, let Natalie teach you her own personal acting techniques and maybe someday, you, too can be just as excellent at the craft as she is.