The actress, now 36, recalled being eager to see how people would respond to her work in “Léon: The Professional.”
She described other instances of sexual objectification that she faced soon after the film’s release, including movie reviewers talking about her “budding breasts” and her local radio station starting a countdown to her 18th birthday to keep track of “the date that I would be legal to sleep with.”
“I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe,” said Portman, who was wearing a Time’s Up T-shirt. “And that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort.”
Portman said she chose to combat this by building a reputation as a “prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious” actress. She even rejected roles in which there were kissing scenes in order to feel safe.
“I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world: that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect,” she said. “The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism.”
In November, Portman spoke to Vulture about how sexual harassment is so ingrained in the film industry and society generally that when other women’s stories began to surface in late 2017, she didn’t immediately recognize the similarity to her own experiences.
“I went from thinking I don’t have a story,” she told the entertainment site, “to thinking, ‘Oh wait, I have 100 stories.’”