With an Oscar before the age of 30, repeated comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, and the drool of a thousand critics at her feet, Natalie Portman has emerged as one of the most promising actresses of her generation.
Born in Jerusalem on June 9, 1981, to an artist mother and doctor father, Portman moved to New York when she was three. Raised on Long Island, she was discovered by a modeling agent who signed her on the spot. Her modeling stint led to an audition for Luc Besson's Leon (or The Professional, as it was called in the United States). Due to her age (she was 12 when the film was cast), Portman was initially turned down for the lead role of Mathilda, a girl who asks a hit man (Jean Reno) to train her as an assassin to avenge her brother's death and falls innocently in love with him in the process. However, she ultimately won the part and her 1994 film debut earned a number of positive notices. In interviews, Portman allowed that making her first film in the toughest sections of Spanish Harlem was frightening, but not quite so frightening, she claimed, as going back to school once shooting wrapped.