Black Swan Body Double Scandal: What’s The Big Deal?

Recently, Natalie Portman confessed in a roundabout way that she did not do all of the dancing in her performance of Black Swan, the film which earned her an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and several other award nominations. Before and during the Oscars, Sarah Lane, the professional ballerina who played Portman’s body double in Black Swan came forward and admonished Portman for not doing much of the dancing for the film; Lane felt she did not receive enough credit for her own performance, but why?

Many people came to Portman’s defense during the movie award season, but Portman kept quiet about the issue until a few days ago in an interview, “I know what went on and we had an amazing experience making the movie and I don’t want to tarnish it by entering into nastiness,” Portman told and other media outlets. She neither confirmed nor denied the actual percentage of the dancing she did for the film.

The body double ‘scandal’ of Black Swan reminded me of a similar issue in 2001 of the movie, Save the Last Dance, a film which portrays an aspiring ballerina, played by Julia Stiles. Just like Portman, Stiles had a body double in the film, and after the film was released, it was reported that Stiles did not do all of her own dancing.

Natalie Portman and Julia Stiles are actresses, not professional ballerinas. In order to give the audience a believable visual that the characters they portrayed in these films were expert dancers, body doubles were hired, especially for close up en pointe shots of the feet. However, Stiles was not chastised nearly as much as Portman for the role in her film, which got me wondering… what’s the big deal?

So I decided to take a look back at the awards and attention received for both films. Save the Last Dance was number one in the box office for two weekends after it’s release, and Stiles received an MTV and Teen Choice awards for her performance, but the film did not get much attention from adult critics. Quite the opposite reaction was given to Black Swan, I’m not even going to list all the awards, nominations, and overall positive attention the film received from critics. Needless to say, it was a success.

Hmm, sour grapes? I would understand Sarah Lane being upset if Portman had done none of the dancing at all for the film, and heaped all the credit, but that’s not the case here. Did Lane perform as Portman’s body double during her emotional breakdown in the dressing room? No. Did she perform as Portman’s double in the character’s confrontation with her mother? No. Did she at any time play as Portman’s alter ego in the movie? Nope. Lane was filmed and credited for her dancing technique, which she performed well. Maybe if Lane had received an award for Best Body Double or something, she wouldn’t have raised such a stink.