Now: Nina Sayers, Black Swan
Then: Mathilda, a hit-girl, in
Léon (The Professional)
Natalie was 12 when she made her feature film debut in the French action film
Léon (The Professional), where she played—disturbingly—a 12-year-old protégé of a solitary New York City hit-man. Though it was generally well-received, the movie set off a debate about, as one critic put it, its “would-be sexy portrayal of a pre-teenage girl.” Portman’s breakout role was as the expressionless Padmé in George Lucas’ widely derided
Star Wars prequels. Portman is still best at playing virginal characters, but just like the feverish dancer she portrayed in
Black Swan, for which she earned a Best Actress nomination, she has learned to show her dark side.