Six years ago, the news broke about a potential Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy movie with Rachel Weisz in the title role, and her then fiancé Darren Aronofsky directing from Noah Oppenheim’s script. At last year’s Berlin, Pablo Larrain was approached by Aronofsky about directing Jackie after the Black Swan director, then head of the Berlin jury, was floored by the Chilean director’s competition entry The Club. Natalie Portman watched The Club in Paris, and soon after, decided to put on the pill box hat. By Cannes, Jackie was an official ‘go’.
Since its debut at Venice and the Toronto International Film Festival, critics have praised Portman’s uncanny portrayal of the widowed First Lady and remarked how Larrain and Oppenheim have sublimely broken all the biopic rules in a movie that follows Jackie Kennedy post-JFK assassination. Deadline’s Michael Cieply described Jackie as an “almost one-woman show about truth, fiction.” When it came to diving into the role and making Mrs. Kennedy someone more than a cultural fashion icon, a primary source for Portman was the seven-part interview that historian and Kennedy aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. conducted with the First Lady. It was one of three interviews she gave following her husband’s assassination. The eight-and-a-half hour interview conducted in the early part of 1964 was kept private throughout her life.
What struck Portman? “She had this ironic wit,” says the Oscar-winning actress who has a shot at a third nomination this year after Black Swan distributor Fox Searchlight snapped up U.S. rights to Jackie on Monday for a December 9 release. Adds Portman on Mrs. Kennedy, “She took this real control over her family’s story and she really had a deep understanding of history to know the story you tell is the one that lasts; it doesn’t matter what really happened.”
Awards momentum for Jackie is already in place with Oppenheim’s script taking the best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival.