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Dedicated: A tough act to follow

In Jackie — which follows the events of the initial days after the assassination of former US president John F Kennedy — actor Natalie Portman said she trained very intensely to adopt the former first lady’s distinct way of speaking. But of course, it didn’t come easy. “The voice is very particular … and it is also different when she speaks publicly and privately,” The Hollywood Reporter quoted Natalie as saying.

To adopt Jackie’s specific rhythms and voice quality, the actor trained with dialect coach Tanya Blumstein, repeatedly watched White House tour recordings and read Kennedy’s book of interviews with Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, all the while listening to its accompanying audio tapes.

“It was fun to do it for the first time,” continued Portman. “I remember, at the beginning, everyone was kind of thinking, ‘Uh oh. What’s going on here? It’s a little over-the-top or campy’,” shared the Black Swan star.

Indeed, on the crew’s first day on set, director Pablo Larrain and his brother Juan de Dios Larrain, who produced the film, agreed that Natalie’s initial delivery was too much. “Therefore, she doesn’t go all the way. It’s a little bit less than how she used to speak because then it would be too hard to connect,” he said.

Darren Aronofsky said that conquering Jackie’s vocals was the key to the rest of the film.

“It is a very daunting, scary role to undertake because she’s so iconic and people have such real ownership of Jackie in their imaginations.

So the whole film depends on if you can forget that you’re watching Natalie Portman and can believe the illusion,” said the producer.

“But five or ten minutes in, you forget you’re in 2016. I thought we’re okay.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2016.

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