Behind-the-scenes videos offer new look at Natalie Portman in 'Jackie'
Featurettes show the meticulous attention to detail and artistic talent that went into recreating a pivotal moment in American history.
When the winners of the 89th Academy Awards are announced next month, don't be surprised if the name "Jackie" is repeated more than a few times. The film, starring Israeli-American Natalie Portman and directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, chronicles the haunting and emotional journey of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the days following her husband's assassination.
When it came time to prepare, Portman says she had only about a month to fully embrace the character of Mrs. Kennedy. This formidable challenge included working hours daily with a dialect coach, as well as watching and re-watching countless videos.
"I had it on my iPhone and I would listen to it while I was running, or cooking, or basically anytime when I didn't have to be in dialogue with someone," the Jerusalem-born actress told Deadline. "It was great, because it's a very specific accent."
Portman's dedication to the role has swiftly been followed by both critical acclaim and Hollywood accolades. In addition to winning the Best Actress award at last month's 22nd annual Critics’ Choice Awards, she also scored the same honor at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards and a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination.
Below are just a few of the recent behind-the-scenes featurettes chronicling the incredible effort from both the cast and crew that went into recreating a tragic and powerful chapter in American history.
The hair, the clothes, the grace
To recreate one of the country's most storied structures, Natalie Portman recalls in the video above how the production team "built the White House" within a studio in Paris. As you'll see, it's a pretty amazing feat of design, with no detail left to chance. In addition to recreating 1960s clothing and furniture, the production team also worked with one of Mrs. Kennedy's original design firms.
"We went back to the French company who did a lot of the fabrics for Jackie Kennedy," French film set decorator Jean Rabasse explains. "And they reprinted some of them for the film."
Becoming Jacqueline Kennedy
"Natalie has something that I think is essential in acting," Larraín shares in the above video, "which is mystery."
According to American actor Billy Crudup, who plays "The Journalist" in the film, Portman's ability to mimic the first lady's mannerisms, voice and look allowed her to fully embrace a role that elevated the rest of the cast's performance. "When somebody is so possessed by their character and their work is so refined, you get to be taken away by it," he says.
People like to believe in fairy tales
As shown in the video above, the association of President John F. Kennedy with King Arthur and the legend of Camelot was artfully promoted by Jackie Kennedy in the days following her husband's assassination.
"I never thought she got the credit she deserved for being the genius of image creation and myth-making in crafting the mythology of Camelot," said American screenwriter and "Jackie" scribe Noah Oppenheim.
An unexpected and visionary director
When it came time to find the perfect director for "Jackie," the producers surprised everyone by choosing someone far removed from the subject material: Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín. As they explain in the video above, that choice allowed the project to be handled by someone with fresh eyes and a strong vision.
"When I was invited to make this movie, I called my mother, " shares Larraín in the video, "and she was like 'Son, you go and make that movie.' Because it's the story of a mother. Not just a mother of those two kids, but at some point, a mother of a whole country."
A window into who she was before
One of the more striking moments seen in the film "Jackie" is the recreation of the 1961, hour-long White House tour that Mrs. Kennedy hosted for a television special.
"Shot by shot, it's a replica," explains Larraín in the video. "We didn't even change a single word." In addition to splicing some of the original television special in with the recreation, the production also shot the scenes using the same 1960s video cameras.
"I think it was a great element to have in the film," said Portman. "It allows you to see Jackie before all this tragedy."
An ensemble willing to take risks
With "Jackie" primarily focusing on one main character, the supporting cast had the difficult task of fleshing out their roles with very little screen time.
"You have to really grab the key of the character," explains Larraín in the above video, praising the incredible work of an ensemble that includes American actors Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig and British star John Hurt.
"All of the other actors were willing to risk, which is what an artist should do," Larraín added. "And I respect that."
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