Natalie Portman is optimistic about the growing number of women in elected positions, but she knows change in Hollywood won’t come as swiftly as it did in congress. Portman is a founding member of Time’s Up, the anti-harassment initiative formed as a response to #MeToo and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. In response to a question about whether people in Hollywood are embracing inclusion riders — a contractual obligation that ensures film and TV productions hire more women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities — Portman told Deadline there is still resistance to the idea.
“There is a resistance because I think a lot of people are making the argument that you’re hiring someone for their talent, not for their gender,” said Portman, citing an example that top orchestras used to be all-male until some began a blind audition process, which naturally created 50/50 gender parity. “It goes to show that we have so much bias in not recognizing talent and allowing it to express itself.”
The concept for inclusion riders was first created by the prolific Dr. Stacy L. Smith at USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, though very few people knew what it was was until Frances McDormand forcefully called for its use during her Best Actress acceptance speech at the 2018 Academy Awards. Since then, Time’s Up has embraced the idea as part of its advocacy work.
In September, Warner Bros. became the first major studio to implement a company-wide inclusion policy, partnering with actor and producer Michael B. Jordan to increase diversity and inclusivity in front of and behind the camera. (Its parent company, WarnerMedia, also owns Turner and HBO).
“Of course, no one wants to get a job because of their marginalization, you want to get the job because of your talent,” said Portman. “But there are so many who don’t get the opportunity since they are marginalized, and there are those who actually appreciate others’ values, talent, and voices.”
In her newest movie, Brady Corbet’s “Vox Lux,” Portman plays a difficult rock star named Celeste, a Lady Gaga-esque figure who is haunted by a tragic event from her past.
When asked if she’s noticed an improvement in the quality of roles for women, Portman said, “it’s still really challenging, there’s a lot of tropes that are repeated and revisited. Also for women of color, it’s extremely difficult to be represented.” She noted recent milestones like “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first studio movie centered on an Asian-American woman in 25 years, but added that Latinx stories are still grossly underrepresented.
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Portman added, “There’s a lot to be done when it comes to giving more opportunities to other people, and allowing people from all types of experiences to tell their stories.”