natalie portman natalie portman Natalie Portman on the Cannes' red carpet. (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

In new HBO series, Natalie Portman will have a twin sister who's a chimp

The show is based on bestselling novel 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.'

Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman grew up in Jerusalem as an only child. But in a just-announced HBO miniseries, the Israeli-American actress will be getting a sister. And to be perfectly upfront: the sister is played by a diaper-wearing chimp named Fern.

The show will be based on the bestselling novel “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Indiana native Karen Joy Fowler. She's perhaps best known as the author of "The Jane Austen Book Club," which was later turned into 2007 movie of the same name starring Hugh Dancy and Emily Blunt.

As for the book about the chimp sibling, the New York Times called it "a novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get." The novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2014 and was also short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Fans of the Netflix show "Orange is the New Black" may recall one of the characters reading the book from her prison bunk.

(Left) Galina "Red" Reznikov enjoys a certain novel and (right) its author, Karen Joy Fowler.(Left) Galina "Red" Reznikov enjoys a certain novel and (right) its author, Karen Joy Fowler. (Photo: Netflix/Wikimedia)

The book was inspired in part by a real-life experiment in the 1930s where a husband-and-wife team of scientists tried to raise a baby chimpanzee in their home as if she were human, along with their own child. "As I researched these experiments, I was struck by how long it took for someone to note that, if we were interested in chimps and communication, it was more relevant to ask how they communicated with each other than how well they could learn to communicate with us," Fowler said.

As part of her research for the book, Fowler attended a “chimposeum” at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute in Ellensburg, Washington, where she had the opportunity to observe the chimps in residence there.

The HBO adaptation will star Portman as Rosemary Cooke, a college student who was raised with a chimpanzee she thought of as her “twin sister.” Fellow Israeli Gideon Raff, who brought the Emmy-winning "Homeland" to Showtime, will produce the series along with American producer Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the popular sitcom “Friends."

Portman already has a busy schedule ahead of her. She just released her directorial debut and is signed on to star in a bunch of films, including one where she portrays first lady Jackie Kennedy. The new HBO series will mark Portman’s first time starring in a TV series.


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