The XX Factor

Natalie Portman Says She Stays Away From Jewish Roles

In the February issue of Elle UK , Natalie Portman says , “I’ve always tried to stay away from playing Jews.” Then she adds, “I get like 20 Holocaust scripts a month, but I hate the genre.” Because the entire interview is not online, I am going to give Portman the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think she’s a self-loather who doesn’t want movie audiences to know she’s Jewish (though she benefits from looks that are not stereotypically Semitic-her nose is small, her hair is straight). It’s more that she’s lamenting the lack of good Jewish roles outside of Holocaust movies. There, she has a point.

In the past ten years, I can think of only two non-Holocaust movies in which the female protagonist was explicitly Jewish: Two Lovers and Kissing Jessica Stein . It’s worth noting that both these films were independent productions, and that in Two Lovers , Vinessa Shaw’s Jewish character was meant to be less attractive than Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, who is a shiksa (though in real life both Paltrow and Shaw are at least part Jewish). I literally cannot think of a single major studio picture with a Jewish heroine from the aughts-if you can name one, please list in the comments below. That’s certainly something worth complaining about in fashion magazines.