Photographed by Craig McDean
Interviewed by Lynn Hirschberg
In Black Swan, you play the wild-child devil girl. You’re both seductive and scary. Had you danced before you took the part?
I had never danced in my life. I trained for four months, seven days a week, five hours a day. I had one day off on my birthday. I lost 20 pounds. I tore a ligament. I dislocated my shoulder. I have two scars on my back. And it was worth every minute.
But I will never dance again. I’m a strong believer in mind over matter, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant until this production. I was like, Well—I wear heels; I can do this. I was wrong: Christian Louboutins are uncomfortable, but I screamed the first time I put on a pointe shoe.
What was the first thing you remember seeing of America?
A black man. It was at the American embassy [in Moscow], and all I had known were Caucasian people with blond hair, brunette hair, and sometimes red hair. You’re never really taught about anything else. I think I was frightened. And the beautiful thing was, the man spoke Russian. He explained to me that there are people in this world who are of different color. Being seven and a half, I asked him, “Does that mean there are purple people in this world?”
Shortly after arriving in L.A., you began acting. Did you always long to be an actress?
No. I started acting when I was nine as a hobby because it was fun, and it allowed me to get out of school. The first thing I did was a Barbie commercial, and I got to keep the Barbie. That’s all a kid wants.
From nine to 14, I did close to 15 commercials, and I guest starred on just about every television show. I was on Baywatch twice. The second time, I played a blind girl who’s lost in the forest next to the beach and needs to be saved. It was absurd: There’s a fire, I get saved, and then I go boogie-boarding. I remember thinking, Well, if I’m blind, how am I boogie-boarding? No one ever gave me an answer.
When you watch your performance in Black Swan, do you find it strange—as if it was another life, another person?
Before I started, I couldn’t even lift my arm properly. I literally had no posture, so, yeah, the first time I saw the movie, my jaw dropped. I was like, Oh, my God—I don’t suck. And it’s great that the performance has been captured on film, because I will never put on those pointe shoes again.
Mila Kunis stars in this summer’s release, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS alongside Justin Timberlake, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson and Emma Stone. Anyone else think it’s weird that both her and Portman are pretty much in the same movie, following Black Swan — “No Strings Attached” starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher…
“Friends With Benefits” looks funnier.