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Why Natalie Portman Shouldn’t Want the Oscar: The Best Actress Curse

Written by , on February 3, 2011 at 11:10 am 

2010 was a great year for Natalie Portman. She scored a critical and financial hit with Black Swan, and has since been Oscar nominated for her role in the film. She’s also recently engaged and pregnant! With this week’s victory at the SAG Awards (and wins at the Globes and Critics Choice Awards) it is almost guaranteed that Ms. Portman will be taking home an Oscar for her work as troubled ballerina Nina Sayers. However, as within the film itself, there is a potential dark side lurking beneath the golden statue as many of the recent Best Actress winners have befallen an alleged Oscar curse! Here we will take a look at the post-Oscar careers and lovelives of the last 10 Best Actress winners and pose the question: should Natalie Portman even WANT to win the Oscar this year?

It’s become difficult to ignore the recent wave of divorces and break-ups that occur shortly after a star wins the Best Actress trophy. There were rumblings in the earlier part of the decade when winners such as Julia Roberts and Halle Berry both ended their respective long-term relationships after taking home the gold. But in the coming years it has become a forgone conclusion – with only Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard seeming exempt. Sometimes the curse isn’t even immediate. Consider the case of Charlize Theron (who separated from her beau years after her win) or Hilary Swank (who kept Chad Lowe around after famously forgetting to thank him in 2000. She filed for divorce shortly after her second win in 2005). The curse can start rearing its head even before a starlet wins the award when the gossip magazines get more interested. Remember the alleged infidelities of Ryan Phillippe months before Reese Witherspoon won her Oscar? The couple split a few months later. The most recent wave of post-Oscar divorces have rang especially loud due in part to the mere two week distance between the announcement of Kate Winslet’s split from Sam Mendes and Sandra Bullock’s divorce from her cheating husband.

In Hollywood, it is hard enough to make a relationship last under all the pressure of fame but it would seem that the Oscar can often be the tipping point that turns the union sour. The last straw, if you will. It doesn’t help Portman’s case that on-set romances with co-stars are fraught with their own sordid history, as she is now engaged to dancer Benjamin Millepied. With a baby on the way, will the couple have what it takes to overcome the adverse odds facing Best Actress winners?

Romantic collapse, however, is not the only ill-fate facing Oscar-winning starlets. Perhaps the biggest example of the post-win slump is Berry’s epic Catwoman failure (which garnered a Razzie award). Yes, that’s an easy example, but even a veteran thespian like Mirren wasn’t immune to the wiles of the curse, as illustrated by her Oscar follow-up appearance in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. Whether it is a camp action film (the aforementioned Berry, Theron in Æon Flux), misguided Oscar bait (Swank in The Affair of the Necklace, Witherspoon in Rendition) or just a slew of box office bombs (every Nicole Kidman movie in the past 8 years), winning Best Actress doesn’t seem to catapult stars into roles one would associate with an Oscar winner. Portman, whose had her share of career missteps already, doesn’t seem to be breaking away from the pack, as evidenced by  No Strings Attached (a mild hit but unbecoming of an Oscar caliber star) and the upcoming comic book film Thor and fantasy comedy Your Highness already on their way.

Winning an Oscar should function as a catalyst for bigger and better things for an actor but instead, for the past 10 years, appears to completely derail promising careers. Of the 10 most recent winners, only 4 have ever been welcomed back with a subsequent nomination. Swank, obviously, earned a second nomination (and win) after her 2000 win but has been lambasted for her recent Oscar bids in Amelia and Conviction. Theron and Mirren were both nominated again, but for very weak performances that clearly served as filler in somewhat weaker years for the category. Even Kidman, whose name alone is usually enough to generate even the most unlikely Oscar buzz, had to wait 8 years before scoring an additional nomination this year for Rabbit Hole. A win for Portman, who was previously nominated for Closer in the Supporting Actress category, could mean a long road ahead if she wants to come back to the Kodak Theater as a contender.

So, with the potential career and personal pitfalls facing a Best Actress winner these days, should Portman really want to win the award? Aside from the relationship trouble and awful films that could follow a win, there is also the threat of the masses quickly turning against a star (just ask Renee Zellweger). It should be noted, however, that  Kidman offers a reprieve from the curse with her long sought after follow-up nomination and her post-Tom Cruise marriage to country star Keith Urban. Perhaps the Oscar curse is a tad short-sighted, as Kidman seems to have recovered fully from the alleged effects of it. Whichever the case, Portman will almost certainly ascend to the podium on Feb. 27th. Only time will tell if she will fall victim to the curse or achieve sustained success.


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