In Pablo Larrain's "Jackie," Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
As the character of Jackie, she spends a lot of time trying to legitimize herself and her place in history to the people around her. It's a striking portrayal of the loneliness the first lady experienced in the midst of the male-dominated political world of 1960s D.C.
But as an actress, Portman has experienced a loneliness of her own — in 2016 Hollywood. In fact, with the Oscar buzz she's getting for "Jackie," it's bonding with other actresses at this time of year that makes her light up, not the talk of awards, she tells The Frame:
"One of the most beautiful things about going through awards season is it's the only time I get to spend with other actresses, because we never work with each other. So when we do roundtables or whatever, it's the only time in my life that I get to sit with women who do the same thing that I do and talk about it together, and it's the greatest joy."
Portman says that the number of scripts that cross her path with multiple parts for women is woefully small. But she points out that it's not just actresses who find there aren't many opportunities for them in the movie and television business. It goes well beyond the screen.
"I'm consistently surprised that male directors aren't making more movies with female characters or putting more than one female character in a movie. Over and over again I see these movies that are like 20 men and one woman. It just cements the idea that there's room for one at the table, and friends of mine who are writers say they go in for staffing jobs on TV shows and they say there's two slots for women and it's a 12-person writing room. And I hear it from executives that they are usually the only woman in the meeting."
In recent years there's been a lot of talk about greater representation of women in all sectors of the entertainment business, in part thanks to studies out of USC. And Portman says she does feel that there is some progress.
"I do see a lot more desire from studios and producers to hire female directors," Portman says. "I feel like they are specifically focusing on that. But yet I also don't see the product of that yet. I don't see the films coming out by female directors in any massive way."
It's interesting to note here that Portman made her own debut as director earlier this year with the independently financed "A Tale of Love and Darkness."
Finally, she noted that in this post-election time frame, she finds that the issue of gender equity goes beyond Hollywood and beyond men. She reflects that women themselves have at times internalized the kind of thinking that doesn't allow for greater opportunities for women.
"I feel like this election has made me realize how widespread that phenomenon is that women have internalized it themselves, that they will take this into their own hearts, and that it's women doing it as well. It gives us something to be conscious of and definitely work to change, because we need to be a community and [to be] accepted in bulk and not in singles [just one at a time]."
Natalie Portman's new movie "Jackie" opens Dec. 2. To hear this interview and get more content like this, subscribe to The Frame podcast on iTunes.