The Sunday Mail
All for a good cause
NATALIE Portman refuses to wear leather, fur or feathers, cosmetics tested on animals – or even diamonds because of the way they are mined. She also is a strict vegetarian.
"It sounds like I'm politically correct almost to a point of parody but, at the same time, we can't be ashamed of trying to be good," the 24-year-old actor says.
"With the food thing, so many religions associate food with belief because you eat three times a day so you remember your beliefs three times a day.
"For me, the most important thing is respecting life in all its forms."
But before you dismiss Portman as another Hollywood starlet with too much spare time on her hands, this is a highly competent Harvard psychology graduate who has travelled extensively, spending time in her native Israel, among other countries, while becoming one of America's most in-demand actors.
And she points out that, despite increasingly consuming political interests, she does have friends and they enjoy a good time – just not in public.
"I go out and have fun and party with my friends, but we go to each other's apartments not, like, Hollywood clubs with movie stars," she says.
As if to back up her statement, she adds that "the saddest thing ever" is that Vince Vaughn did not get nominated for an Academy Award this year for his role in The Wedding Crashers.
"The highest form of art is to give someone happiness and pleasure. The thing to bring you hope and love and make the world better is always comedy. I like a good laugh more than anything."
And a comedy is what Portman, who played Queen Amidala in the last three Star Wars movies and won a Golden Globe for her edgy role in Closer last year, is about to start shooting with 68-year-old dual Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman.
Called Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium, it is set inside a toy store that allows adults to retain a child's sense of magic and wonder.
Before the comedy come two more serious roles – in the futuristic V for Vendetta opposite Hugo Weaving and Goya's Ghosts, co-starring Stellan Skarsgaard and Javier Bardem. In both films she plays characters who are thrown in jail.
In V for Vendetta she had her head shaved for torture scenes. "I thought it would be liberating from vanity and it was a great experience," she says.
But she points to her dark hair, still only about 5cm long, and adds: "I don't know if I'd do it again just because it takes a really long time to grow back, as I'm learning from Exhibit A here."
In V for Vendetta she plays Evey Hammond, a working-class young woman in totalitarian Britain in the future. She is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked man known only as V (Weaving). Tender and intellectual, he awakens a latent activism in Evey, but she learns he is driven by a personal vendetta against a government he sees as corrupt and cruel and determined to use violence to bring it down.
Directed by Australian James McTeigue, a first assistant director on the Star Wars and Matrix franchises, V for Vendetta is adapted from a graphic novel set in Margaret Thatcher's Britain of the mid-1980s.
"I think the fact that it can apply to so many different times and places just shows these occurrences in history always repeat," Portman says.
"The film can mean different things. I spoke to a reporter from South Korea who was like, 'This is North Korea'. Someone thought it was about Hitler's Germany.
"And I met someone else who has a framed picture of President Bush in his office and who loves this movie, has seen it four times and who thinks it's all about anti-Fascism."
V for Vendetta opens in Queensland on March 30