Natalie Portman: Does pregnancy help her Oscar chances?

natalie-portmanImage Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesYes, I know, it’s kind of a ridiculous question. But as we all well know, winning an Oscar isn’t just about delivering a worthy performance. It’s about how a performer is perceived within the industry. So on the heels of Black Swan star Natalie Portman’s announcement that she’s expecting her first child, I was curious: How have pregnant nominees fared over the years?

Rachel Weisz was noticeably pregnant when she won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Constant Gardener. Catherine Zeta-Jones was too when she won the same category for Chicago. Same with Eva Marie Saint for On the Waterfront. And Meryl Streep had the future Mamie Gummer in her belly when she won Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice, though no one knew at the time. It’s been well documented that younger women have better luck with the Academy than their more mature counterparts. Could being pregnant only help an actress’ case?

Not always. Cate Blanchett was eight months along in 2008, when she lost in both the lead and supporting categories. Marcia Gay Harden also lost while pregnant, the year she was up for Mystic River. Same with Glenn Close for Fatal Attraction. Most interestingly, The Kids Are All Right‘s Annette Bening, who is Portman’s biggest competition this year, was almost nine months pregnant when she lost the Best Actress prize 11 years ago for American Beauty. With Black Swan now past the $30 million mark at the box office, Portman certainly has the momentum right now. Bening’s fans must surely hope Portman joins the list of Oscar’s pregnant also-rans come February.

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  • Tim Sheridan

    You are right….that is the most absurd headline, possibly ever. That said, yes, I think it does.

    • Allex

      The headline borders on sexist. Nobody would ask “Does Sean Penn’s upcoming fatherhood hinder his Oscar chances?”

      • Liv

        That’s because a man becoming a father doesn’t change people’s perspective of him. Of course, it’s sexist, what country are you living in? Sexism is every where and no matter how far forward women go we just keep getting beaten back into the kitchen. This baby will help Portman win because it makes her seem softer and more feminine.

      • A-K87

        Sexism isn’t a male-only ‘ism’.

        A lot of women will perceive Portman in a more positive light because she is ‘with chid.’

        A lot of women do damage to how other women are perceived by men AND women in society. So don’t blame it all on the man.

      • Zoey

        Of course it’s sexist because women and pregnancy is treated differently than men and fatherhood – men are not always seen as being needed to be a presence in a child’s life while a woman is expected to be a mother no matter what.

      • Kris

        @A-K87
        Agreed. In my experience it is women that damage their gender’s image more than men through their extreme judgement of each other and overuse of the words “bitch” “slut” and “whore” when describing each other.

      • Felicia

        @A-K87 and Kris
        I see your points and I don’t disagree completely–women can be hard on one another. However, I am often shocked by the sort of casual discrimination I see from men who often assume that they aren’t being discriminatory.

      • Bob

        Is Sean penn still friends with Charlie Sheen?

    • dammmm

      this is a perfect strategy. she can get the oscar, and then ‘miscarry’ immediately afterwards. dump her man, date whichever gay man taylor swift has just broken up with, and then do an action movie for 20 million bucks.

      all that and she won’t even have to show her titties in a holocaust movie. that alone will be worth the bother.

      • Keri

        Ha, ha, ha. Exactly. The fact that there is no wedding date set is pretty fishy. I bet she throws the French ballet man under the bus if she wins. The wedding will be canceled in 48 hours afterwards. She will have an Oscar and a baby, why take the no-name baby daddy who is trying to catch her coattails and get a free meal?

      • marie j

        that was SO funny, seriously, lol!

    • Jay

      Dumbest. Article. Ever.

      Slow news day?

    • Aunt Sassy

      What I don’t get is that EVERY person I know that has seen the film not only says the movie stinks, but that Portman was just sort of OK in it acting wise and that her dancing was horrendous. What is up with all of the this Oscar hype??????

      • Matt

        I’m not sure who the people are who you know who’ve told you that. But I’m not sure what exactly they were watching. The movie is outstanding, and insanely intense. And I’m no Natalie Portman fan, but she’s great in this movie.

      • NameaPete

        Aunt Sassy, you need to get new friends. The film is a beautifully made dark nightmare, and Natalie Portman is astonishing, especially towards the end of the film.

      • iho

        In the best actress category it really helps if your character suffers and dies. Streep’s win for Sophie’s Choice and Hilary Swank’s wins for Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby all required the characters portrayed to go through enormous physical suffering and die.

      • MikeIam

        Why do you reply to someone who only post to get their jollies off all the responses it generates. Doing so only gives the sad little cypher a belief that they actually matter. That being said. Black Swan was very good. Not exceptional, but I left the theater thinking about the movie, and thats a definite compliment to actor, director, writer etc. Most movies are forgotten once I get into the truck.

  • MCS

    It is so hard to pick one. I feel it will go to Portman as this role is obviously the stand out of her career so far, though Benings role probably is too. I wouldnt put it past the Academy to award it to someone from left field, even though these two are obviously the deserving ones.

  • Kelley

    I don’t think it really matters. I think Dave really answered his own question. Some have won while pregnant and some have lost.

    • Zoey

      IA – at this point it it has more to do with how people think of the actual performances of the actresses nominated in question.

  • Felix

    “EW Staff Writer Slave! We need more filler! Write something else about Natalie Portman’s pregnancy!”
    “Yessir, Mr. EW Boss Person. But…but we’ve already written everything we know about it!”
    “Fool! Then connect her pregnancy to a totally arbitrary and meaningless set of statistics! And mention Black Swan somewhere; according to the Random EW Wheel of Chance, we officially *like* that movie.”
    “Hmm….Oscars…babies….eureka!”

    • The Devil

      Lol…you and Kelley above you pretty much nailed it.

    • erin

      Brilliant. Although I do hope she wins.

  • Willie

    She gave birth in the last Star Wars movie and didn’t win a dam thing.

    • Hedwig

      lol yeah…. maybe because the recent Star Wars’ are total CRAP.

  • I think the crappy looking rom-com she has coming out next month will affect her chances more than her pregnancy.

    • Emoney

      Just what I was thinking. Didn’t she learn from Eddie Murphy that you can be punished at the Oscars for doing crap, no matter how good your good was?

      • SC

        That movie looks mediocre/blandly uninteresting, not straight-up terrible.

        Morever, Portman doesn’t have a reputation for appearing in tons of bad movies. She’s been nominated for an Oscar before. The problem Murphy had was that “Norbit” reminded everyone what a rut he’d fallen into and signalled that “Dreamgirls” wasn’t going to change the kinds of movies he would make.

      • Zach

        OK, but there were other things going on. Alan Arkin, who beat Eddie Murphy, was in Little Miss Sunshine, a Best Picture nominee whereas Dreamgirls was not. As popular as Murphy has been with the public, Arkin had been acting for four decades and was previously nominated twice. While Natalie could face the same problem Eddie did, I agree it doesn’t look like a terrible film by any means, even if it does have Ashton in it. And while there’s always someone around the corner (Annette Bening), Natalie Portman is too likable for an upcoming flop or a pregnancy-before-marriage (an outdated mentality as it is) to upset her chances.

      • Noelbelle

        And didn’t we learn from Sandra Bullock that you can do a whole load of crap and still win an Oscar?

      • M

        Last years best actress was for meryl, she is the queen. Any one, even Katherine Heigel could have done what Sandra did in blind side.

    • Woot

      But If I were Natalie, and I had just punished my body, and played a character who has a complete mental breakdown, by the end I would say, “Where’s Ashton Kutcher so I can make a crappy rom-com?”

      • Allison

        Ha! But so true.

    • m1

      I think we should wait for the movie to actually come out. I, too, am fearful, but I’m willing to give No Strings Attached the benefit of the doubt.

    • But Then…

      ..many have suggested that this movie might not turn out to be as terrible as it seems (Ashton Kutcher notwithstanding). If so, this could actually HELP her chances – the Academy might be impressed with the remarkable range of a young actress who can go from an intense, physically demanding, dark independent movie to a light studio rom com. Many actresses can do one or the other – few can effortlessly do both.

  • JLC

    Just the fact the question can be asked shows how utterly worthless the Oscars are (which Dave pretty much recognizes in the post). Hopefully their days (like the Miss America Pageant) are numbered.

    • Jean Genie

      JLC FTW!!!! (Ummm, do they still say “for the win”?)

  • Daphne

    I have to say the accolades heaped upon this movie & natalie portman baffle me beyond measure! yes, she’s luminous and a good actress, but this movie? meh. Her performance? meh. The hype’s the thing.

    • Beau

      Obviously, you wouldn’t know a good movie or performance if it bit you in your big butt!

    • @daphne

      I agree… I didn’t think the movie was very good and thought portman (who I usually like) was so-so in it. Her final scenes were fabulous but her meek scenes were not so good.

  • Adam

    Regardless of pregnancies, previous nominations/losses, etc, anyone who has seen both Black Swan and The Kids Are Alright should be able to see that Natalie Portman deserves the Oscar over Annette Bening.

    • Bruno

      co-sign…

    • Zo

      Negative.

      Difficult dance training aside, Natalie only had to look utterly terrified through the whole film. That expression never left her face.

      Benning had to show layer upon layer upon layer… Years of back-story show in just a blink of her eyes.

      • mike

        Interesting points Zo, although a bit harsh.

      • Adam

        Personally, I think you’re wrong. I agree about the subtleties of Bening’s performance, but Portman’s performance is so much more than what you’re making it out to be. She did much more than just looking terrified.

      • amber

        i felt that benning over-acted over the course of the kids are all right, and showed nothing new; it was just her being her. on the other hand, portman showed amazing ballet skill along with terrific acting. the way i see it is that portman played two different characters; the white swan and the black. polar opposites that indeed show her acting range in the film. portman should win, hands down.

    • Noelbelle

      So true.

  • Jerry

    Natalie would win this year pregnant or not. She is the new audrey Hepburn..Beautiful, Fashionable and Talented. She should get an EW Cover Very Soon!

  • Anne

    Oh EW. What a stupid article. Really.

    • Noelbelle

      The only way it could have redeemed itself is if it actually had found a correlation…which it didn’t.

  • James

    Honestly, as soon as I heard that Bening and Moore would both be gunning in the lead category, I figured Portman would win Best Actress anyway. So I don’t think the pregnancy will affect it one way or the other.
    Speaking of Bening, being pregnant REALLY helped her chances back in ’00 when she was up for American Beauty. Oh, wait.

  • rayne

    honestly, who else could do better? Like one poster said, it has nothing to do with performance. The lesser of many evils I think

  • richard

    congrats : )

  • Barry

    Yes, lets “reward” her for having a child out of wedlock.

    • . . .

      She hasn’t had the kid yet.

    • Kris

      First of all, she isn’t being rewarded for being pregnant. She’s being rewarded for her remarkable performance in Black Swan. Second of all, she hasn’t given birth yet so she hasn’t had a child out of welock. And finally, why is being pregnant before you’re married a terrible thing? She’s 29 years-old, has an incredible career, and all the resources she needs to raise a child. Why does a document matter when there’s nothing else stopping her from being a good mother?

    • Zoey

      Damn, what decade are you living in, the 1910s?

      • Woot

        I was thinking more the 1820′s

      • Jean Genie

        Hmmm … how ’bout the 1620s? Great time for the Puritans …

    • MCS

      And the Academy Award for “Best Pregnancy out of Wedlock” goes to…Natalie Portman

    • Jean Genie

      Maybe she’ll get married before the baby’s born – some of them still do. But if she doesn’t, so what? Take the bitter judgements somewhere else.

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