'Black Swan' star Natalie Portman on training for the role of a prima ballerina

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Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight

Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan'.

In the new film by Darren Aronofsky called “Black Swan,” Natalie Portman portrays a ballerina on the brink of madness. The actress says that ballet is an art form she embraced early in her life.

"My earliest memories of ballet probably were going to ballet class when I was 3 or 4-years-old," recalls Portman.

She studied ballet quite seriously until she decided to pursue acting full-time. She says she was thrilled when, years later, director Aronofsky approached her to do a film about a young ballerina.

"I'd always wanted to do something related to ballet because it had always been sort of my secret fantasy 'other career,'" she says.

They two first discussed the project when Portman was 20-years-old, but she didn't begin training for the role of dancer Nina until she was 27.

"So there had been a 15-year gap since I had ended my ballet training," says. Portman, noting she realized she had a lot to learn.

She studied ballet with a former member of the New York City Ballet for a year prior to shooting.

"We would do toe exercises and butt exercises ... parts of your body that no matter how in-shape you are you just don't use but that you need for ballet."

Director Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman discuss the role of dance in 'Black Swan.'

'Black Swan' trailer.

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