Natalie Portman on Wednesday responded to a harsh Facebook post by actress-activist Rose McGowan, who had criticized her for calling attention to the lack of women in the Academy Awards' directing category while purportedly not helping female filmmakers get hired.
"It is true I've only made a few films with women," the Jericho-raised Portman, 38, said, in part, in a long statement to Newsday. "In my long career, I've only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times — I've made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history."
She added, "I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work." Portman said female-directed films "face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level. So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day."
At the Academy Awards Sunday, Portman had worn a cape embroidered with the last names of seven women who directed features last year: Mati Diop ("Atlantics"), Greta Gerwig ("Little Women"), Alma Har'el ("Honey Boy"), Marielle Heller ("A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"), Lorene Scafaria ("Hustlers"), Céline Sciamma ("Portrait of a Lady on Fire") and Lulu Wang ("The Farewell"). "I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements,” Portman’s statement said.
McGowan, 46, had written in a long Facebook post Tuesday, "I find Portman's type of activism deeply offensive to those of us who actually do the work. I'm not writing this out of bitterness, I am writing out of disgust. I just want her and other actresses to walk the walk." She alleged Portman has only worked "with two female directors in your very long career- one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director- you."
Portman starred in Zlotowski's 2016 independent feature "Planetarium" and also in the Mira Nair-directed segment of the 2008 omnibus film "New York, I Love You." Portman directed the indie feature "A Tale of Love and Darkness" (2015), partly produced by her company, Handsomecharlie Films.
The company has been involved in five other fiction features, all male-directed but some with women in key positions: "The Other Woman" (2009), "Hesher" (2010, with production designer Laura Fox), "No Strings Attached" (2011, with screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether), "Jane Got a Gun" (2015, with cinematographer Mandy Walker), and "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (2016).
"There is no law that says you need to hire women, work with women, or support women. … But I am saying stop pretending you're some kind of champion for anything other than yourself," McGowan wrote. "As for me, I'll be over here raising my voice and fighting for change without any compensation. That is activism."
On Monday, Portman had posted an Instagram photo of her Oscars ensemble, writing, "Honoring these remarkable women last night who were not recognized for their incredible work," and listing their names. A host of Hollywood notables commented favorably, including gender-equality activists America Ferrera and Alyssa Milano as well as Halle Berry, Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Chelsea Peretti, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts and Reese Witherspoon, plus directors Scafaria and Melina Matsoukas (2019's "Queen & Slim").