The ballerina who served as a dancing double for Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winnning role in Black Swan tells EW she has been the victim of a “cover-up” to mislead the public about how much dancing Portman actually did in the film. “Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie,” says Sarah Lane, 27, an American Ballet Theatre soloist who performed many of the film’s complicated dance sequences, allowing Portman’s face to be digitally grafted onto her body. “All the other shots are me.”
Lane’s claim follows a March 23 L.A. Times article in which Portman’s fiancé and Black Swan choreographer Benjamin Millepied said Lane’s work in the film was far less significant. “There are articles now talking about her dance double [American Ballet Theatre dancer Sarah Lane] that are making it sound like [Lane] did a lot of the work, but really, she just did the footwork, and the fouettés, and one diagonal [phrase] in the studio,” he said. “Honestly, 85 percent of that movie is Natalie.”
Lane disagrees. “The shots that are just her face with arms, those shots are definitely Natalie,” she says. “But that doesn’t show the actual dancing.” Lane admits that she was never promised a particular title for her six weeks of work on the film, though she was disappointed to see that she is credited only as as “Hand Model,” “Stunt Double,” and “Lady in the Lane” (a brief walk-on role).
Lane also says that Black Swan producer Ari Handel specifically told her not to talk about her work to the press, even though she claims there was no such stipulation in her contract. “They wanted to create this idea in people’s minds that Natalie was some kind of prodigy or so gifted in dance and really worked so hard to make herself a ballerina in a year and a half for the movie, basically because of the Oscar,” says Lane. “It is demeaning to the profession and not just to me. I’ve been doing this for 22 years…. Can you become a concert pianist in a year and a half, even if you’re a movie star?”
Reps for Portman, Fox Searchlight, and Handel have yet to provide comments on the matter.
Lane is barely seen in promotional materials for the movie, including a VFX reel posted by studio Fox Searchlight that appears to show all the digital alterations made to key dance sequences. An unverified version of that reel, leaked to YouTube, seems to shows how digital face replacement was used to put Portman’s head on Lane’s body. (The clip was included in a blog post by Dance Magazine’s Wendy Perron, who wrote about Lane’s story earlier this month.)
According to Lane, Portman’s dramatic transformation into a ballerina — a narrative firmly at the center of her successful Oscar campaign — wasn’t as impressive as the public was led to believe. “I mean, from a professional dancer’s standpoint, she doesn’t look like a professional ballet dancer at all and she can’t dance in pointe shoes. And she can’t move her body; she’s very stiff,” says Lane. “I do give her a lot of credit because in a year and a half she lost a lot of weight and she really tried to go method and get into a dancers head and really feel like a ballet dancer.”
In interviews, Portman didn’t hide the fact that she had used a body double for key sequences in the film, though Lane’s name, and the extent of her work, were played down. “I do have a double for the complicated turning stuff,” Portman told EW last November. “It was not anything I ever could have done in a year, nothing I could’ve caught up with. But I think it was just better for all of us if I did as much as possible.”
Lane insists she isn’t speaking out of jealousy over Portman’s acclaim. “[Natalie] is an amazing actress, for sure,” she says. “I know that it’s not a personal thing against me. I know that it’s just a political thing. It’s just unfortunate that I kind of lost credit.”