New York, I Love You: Natalie Portman in Central Park

New York I Love You

Natalie Portman’s segment of “New York, I Love You” stars Taylor Geare and Jacinda Barrett. The film, whose concept was created by Emmanuel Benihby, is being release October 16, 2009 by Vivendi Entertainment.

On a sunlit afternoon at a Central Park fountain, a little white girl (Taylor Geare) plays with her attentive black “manny” – a male nanny – (Carlos Acosta), but as the day comes to a close and the “manny” returns the girl to her mother (Jacinda Barrett), he reveals in a literal leap of passion that skin-deep appearances are not always what they seem.

Acclaimed actress Natalie Portman begins her directing career with this story, which she also wrote. Portman made her movie debut as an actress at the age of 12 in Luc Besson’s THE PROFESSIONAL. After a number of roles in her teenage years, she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in ANYWHERE BUT HERE. While pursuing a degree in psychology at Harvard University, she starred in the STAR WARS prequel trilogy of movies, which were filmed while she was on summer break.

After graduating from Harvard, she portrayed a small role in Anthony Minghella’s screen version of COLD MOUNTAIN, then starred in the hit indie film GARDEN STATE. This was followed by CLOSER, for which she garnered both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Her recent roles include V FOR VENDETTA, HOTEL CHEVALIER and THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. Portman worked with director of photography Jean-Louis Bompoint who is best known for his long-time collaboration with Michel Gondry, most recently on THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP.

Portman had earlier taken a role in PARIS JE T’AIME and had agreed to star in Mira Nair’s film – but, with thoughts of ultimately branching her career into directing, she was especially pleased to also join the roster of filmmakers. “It seemed like a great opportunity to try directing a short in a unique format that has an audience,” she says. “So many shorts now seem relegated to obscurity. I love the concept for PARIS JE T’AIME and NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU
because they offer a very open way to allow many different artists to give first impressions about a city from varying vantage points, all of them love stories.”

Benbihy did not know what to expect from Portman as a new filmmaker but was quite impressed with the screenplay she submitted. “She’s a beautiful writer,” he says. “Her characters are very developed and the story is quite sweet and moving.”

Inspiration came for Portman in the changes she saw in the city in 2008 during the election season. “This was a year in which New Yorkers were often found debating race versus gender because of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – and, amid this, I heard a true story from a friend about a man whose race had trumped his gender for a certain group of women. So that was the beginning, but I also wanted to reflect something about escaping the city’s choking presence through art. The child’s eye game and the father’s dance stand in contrast to the buildings which are so aggressive in their assertion that people are meant to be stacked.”

Still, Portman faced some of the film’s most trying conditions, starting production just as a spell of inclement weather hit the city. “This segment takes place entirely outside, and she had to face rain and wind and cold,” says Benbihy. “She also was working with very unpredictable elements – with a child actress, a non-professional actor (dancer Acosta) in her lead role – but she did a fantastic job. I think she demonstrates a lot of fresh talent.”

Says Portman of the trial-by-fire experience: “It was very challenging, and of all the challenges, the biggest was nature. The weather changed 40 times during our 2-day shoot! My DP, Jean-Louis, was having heart attacks every three minutes because of it. But our cast – including Carlos who had never acted professionally before; Jacinda, who was right off a flight from Australia; and Taylor, who is 6 – were so perfect and inventive and true, they made dealing with the weather that much less frightening.”


Director of Photography JEAN-LOUIS BOMPOINT
Original Music by NICHOLAS BRITELL