Story at a glance

  • Natalie Portman wore a cape to the Oscars embroidered with the names of female directors that were not nominated for an Academy Award.
  • While many celebrated her statement, others, including Rose McGowan, pointed out that Portman herself has little history of working with female directors.
  • In response, Portman admitted that she has worked with a few female directors but insisted it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

If Natalie Portman hasn’t worked with many female directors in a career that started at the age of 12, it’s not for a lack of trying, she says, firing back at criticism sparked by the dress she wore to the 92nd Academy Awards. 

“It is true I’ve only made a few films with women. 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 told Variety

On the Oscars red carpet, Natalie Portman donned a black Dior cape embroidered with the name of female directors that weren't nominated for the Oscars in a banner year for women in Hollywood

"I wanted to recognize the women who were not recognized for their incredible work this year in my subtle way," she told the L.A. Times

The names included Lorene Scafaria, Lulu Wang and Greta Gerwig, Mati Diop, Melina Matsoukas, Marielle Stiles Heller, Alma Har'el and Celine Sciamma, who all directed films in the last year.  On social media, many applauded her statement in solidarity with women in Hollywood. But like any wave, the compliments receded and criticism rolled in. 

Most focused on the actress’ own history of working with female directors. In a post on Facebook, actress and activist Rose McGowan singled out Portman, calling her a fraud. 

"You are the problem. Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem," she said, accusing Portman of having only worked with two female directors in her career, including Portman herself. 

Portman has directed two movies under her production company Handsomecharlie films, which has produced no other female-directed movies otherwise. 

In a statement to Variety, Portman directly addressed McGowan’s criticism of a protest that "gets rave reviews from the mainstream media for its bravery."

“I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it,” Portman told Variety. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”

McGowan is one of at least 100 women who have publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault or rape. She received a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein over alleged sexual harassment in 1997, according to a New York Times investigation.

In her statement, Portman emphasized the challenges female filmmakers face, saying she has helped female directors get hired on projects that they were later forced out of due to the working conditions. 

“After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level,” she added. “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.”

Published on Feb 13, 2020