There were a lot of eye-catching outfits at this year’s Oscars, but perhaps the most acclaimed was Natalie Portman’s cape — not because capes are an unusual fashion choice, but because of what was embroidered upon it: the names of numerous female film directors who’d been snubbed by the Academy. But there was one person who was not impressed: fellow actress and activist Rose McGowan, who took to Facebook Tuesday to call her out for what she believed was hypocrisy. Now Portman has responded.
McGowan’s post called Portman out, asking her to “stop pretending you’re some kind of champion for anything other than yourself.” She also noted that the Oscar-winning actress and filmmaker had only “worked with two female directors in your very long career- one of them was you.” (Portman directed the 2015 Israeli drama A Tale of Love and Darkness, as well as a short in the omnibus film New York, I Love You.)
On Wednesday, Portman released a statement, as noted by Deadline. Her tone was more cordial than defensive.
“I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it. 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.”
The last part was a tacit acknowledgement that McGowan has been a major part of the movement that has led to Weinstein currently standing in court, facing some of his many accusers.
“The past few years have seen a blossoming of directing opportunities for women due to the collective efforts of many people who have been calling out the system,” Portman added. “The gift has been these incredible films. I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements.”
Portman did point out for the record that, while she’s made few feature-length films with woman, she’s worked with many female directors on shorts, commercials, and music videos, naming Marya Cohn, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat, “and myself.” She added, “Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”
Portman also pointed out that “female films have been incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed. If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them. I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work.”
Unfortunately sometimes those films have trouble attracting viewers, or even distributors. “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 sad. “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.”
Portman’s cape listed such filmmakers as Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Lorene Scarfaria (Hustlers), Alma Har’l (Honey Boy), and Lulu Wang (The Farewell), none of whom were nominated for the Best Director Oscar. The trophy went to Parasite‘s Bong Joon-ho.