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Nine years after she signed a Hollywood petition demanding the release of Roman Polanski from Swiss custody, Natalie Portman says she regrets supporting the filmmaker, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in 1977.
“I very much regret it. I take responsibility for not thinking about it enough,” Portman says in an interview with Buzzfeed News published on Tuesday. “Someone I respected gave it to me, and said, ‘I signed this. Will you, too?’ And I was like, ‘Sure.'”
The petition, made public in September 2009, demanded “the immediate release of Roman Polanski” after the Rosemary’s Baby filmmaker was detained days earlier in Switzerland on a warrant for his 1977 underage sex case in the U.S., which he fled before sentencing. Over 100 figures in the film industry signed, including heavyweights such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Wim Wenders, Tilda Swinton and Wong Kar Wai.
Portman, who has become an outspoken representative of the Time’s Up initiative since the fall and spoke at the 2018 Los Angeles Women’s March, says she signed the petition out a mistaken sense of empathy. “It was a mistake. The thing I feel like I gained from it is empathy towards people who have made mistakes,” she tells Buzzfeed News. “We lived in a different world, and that doesn’t excuse anything. But you can have your eyes opened and completely change the way you want to live. My eyes were not open.”
Portman has previously said that she has “100 stories” of sexual harassment in Hollywood, though she has specified that she was never assaulted.
The actress also offered insight into why she announced the nominees for the director category at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards as “all-male nominees.” Portman says she had been offered the opportunity to announce the directors at the ceremony, but she “felt uncomfortable because it seemed to be excluding some deserving nominees.” After speaking with some women she had been working with, and emphasizing that she did not want to disrespect the nominees, one suggested the description as a solution.
“That’s part of what we’re here to do,” Portman says. “We have to make it weird for people to walk in a room where everyone’s not in the room. If you look around a room and everyone looks like you, get out of that room. Or change that room.”
During the interview, Portman additionally addresses controversy over the “whitewashing” of her character in her upcoming film Annihilation, which bows Friday. The movie, which is adapted from the first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, cast Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as characters that the second book in the trilogy revealed were of Asian and American Indian heritage, respectively. Portman, Leigh and director Alex Garland have said that they did not know of the characters’ ethnicities in the second book, because they were adapting the first.
When asked how she felt when learning of her character’s written heritage, Portman says, “It felt terrible. This is the thing: There’s a very big problem of representation in Hollywood, and I have very strong feelings about it. … There just needs to be more representation, and I would hate to be part of that problem.”
After explaining that the film was based on VanderMeer’s first book, which does not mention race, Portman adds, “And I think we live in a post-Hamilton world where we don’t even need to think about what’s authentic to the character, like faithful to the character. It should just be that everyone can empathize with everyone. And also going against a horrible history of over-seeing white actors and under-seeing otherized people and minorities.”
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