More than just another pretty face, Harvard grad Natalie Portman has made incredibly smart career choices, especially taking on a starring role in one of cinema's most famous franchises. Natalie was born Natalie Hershlagon on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, Israel, the only daughter of an Israeli doctor and an American housewife, Shelly Stevens, who later became her manager. Natalie's family moved to the U.S. when she was only three. She dreamed of a career on Broadway and began taking dance lessons at the age of four. When she was 10, she was discovered at a local pizza parlor by a modeling scout who offered her work with cosmetic giant Revlon. Wanting to be an actress rather than a model, she turned down the offer. In 1994, Natalie auditioned for a part in the violent drama The Professional, directed by Luc Besson. She was initially turned down, but refusing to give up, continued to pursue the role until it was hers. Her portrayal of a young girl who enters into an unlikely friendship with a professional hit man, played by Jean Reno, became a cult favorite. Natalie got more mainstream exposure with her roles in as Al Pacinoâ€™s daughter in Heat, a wise beyond her years teen who wins the heart of Timothy Hutton in Beautiful Girls, and First Daughter to Jack Nicholsonâ€™s President in the Tim Burton sci-fi comedy Mars Attacks! In 1999, Natalie took on the role that made her a bonafide star, Queen Amidala in the eagerly-awaited prequel to George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. The film, not surprisingly, was a smash, grossing over $430 million in the U.S. and over $925 million worldwide. She followed her success in the sci-fi epic playing Susan Sarandon's daughter in the drama Anywhere But Here, which brought Natalie her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. A student at heart, Natalie took a break from the movie business - with the exception of Star Wars, of course - to attend Harvard University. She graduated with a degree in psychology in 2003. During summer breaks while attending Harvard, she worked on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which was released in 2002, and also took to the stage in the New York City Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols and co-starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In 2004, Natalie starred in Zach Braffâ€™s directorial debut, Garden State, and earned her first Oscar nomination playing a stripper in Closer with Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. The third and final Star Wars prequel, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, was released on May 19, 2005, and became the top-grossing and most popular film of the year. Natalie went on to star in the graphic novel adaptation V for Vendetta - in a role that required her to shave her head - as well as the family film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with Dustin Hoffman and the costume drama The Other Boleyn Girl, co-starring Eric Bana and Scarlett Johansson. With her ability to seamlessly combine brains and beauty, Natalie is truly the "thinking man's actress."
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