Natalie Portman, a paragon of virtue in the Star Wars films and an actress often typecast as the girl next door, is the talk of the town at the Venice Film Festival this week with her racy, gritty role in the ballerina thriller Black Swan.
The film is earning early Oscar buzz for Portman, 29, who "hyper-trained" for six months for the extremely physical role, and who shares a steamy lesbian love scene in the movie with actress Mila Kunis.
The director, Darren Aronofsky, "talked to me about this [sex] scene in our first meeting eight years ago," Portman told reporters in Venice, according to Reuters.
"He described it as: 'You're going to have a sex scene with yourself.' And I thought that was very interesting, because this movie is in so many ways an exploration of an artist's ego and that narcissistic sort of attraction to yourself and also repulsion with yourself."
In the movie, Portman plays Nina, a ballerina whose fiery passion for performing causes her to become mentally unhinged. The mental and physical preparation for the role were both grueling for the actress.
"Six months ahead of the film, I went into sort of hyper-training, where five hours a day I was doing both ballet and cross-training, with swimming," Portman tells Britain's Press Association. "A few months before was when we started getting into the choreography. It was very extreme."
Reviews have been mostly positive for the film, and glowing for Portman. The Hollywood Reporter says the actress "bravely ventured out of her comfort zone to play a character slowly losing sight of herself. It's a bravura performance."