Natalie Portman‘s directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, would be a massive undertaking even for someone who’s directed 10 movies. The Hebrew-language film is based on Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel of the same name, which follows his coming-of-age at the same time as Israel was declared an independent state. Love is rife with conflict, both politically and personally, but that’s nothing compared to the turmoil it took to get made. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Portman talks about her reluctance to give directing a try — she didn’t want her movie to be dismissed as a “vanity project,” a label often attached to female filmmakers — and the unlikely Girl(s) who helped her overcome her fear of Hollywood sexism.
I do think the “vanity project” concept is definitely used more against women. I found myself very affected by seeing reviews like that as a kid, growing up, when Barbra Streisand directed The Mirror Has Two Faces. I remember, as a 12-year-old, reading reviews saying it was a “vanity project” and talking about how she lights herself and stuff, and it made me reluctant to try taking on multiple roles on this film. To be a writer, director, and actress, I was like, “Oh my God, they’re going to kill me for this!”
I remember seeing Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham’s film, and when the credits rolled I started crying because it was written by Lena Dunham, starring Lena Dunham, produced by Lena Dunham, and directed by Lena Dunham. This young woman has no fear of [saying] “I did it, I did all of this.” And it was so good.
Portman added, “It inspired me to not be afraid of that [criticism], and I do think the ‘vanity project’ thing can go in the bossy pile of words that are used more unfairly against women than men.” Her (former) co-star Chris Hemsworth knows about that unfortunate pile of words against women.
(Via Entertainment Weekly)