Many Hollywood superstars learned how to play several musical instruments for their movie roles, including the piano. Is Natalie Portman one of them?
Natalie Portman can play the piano, and she demonstrated her abilities in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The Oscar-winning actress learned how to play the instrument for this role, but there’s no evidence that she continued practicing afterward.
Stick around to learn more about Portman’s role in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and find out what other skills she mastered for her movies.
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Most people know Natalie Portman for her roles in Black Swan, Léon: The Professional, and the Star Wars prequels, but she also starred in many projects that slipped everyone’s mind. The 2007 family drama Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of those projects.
This film failed to charm the audience and didn’t do much better with the critics, but it was a valuable learning lesson for Portman. She played the role of a young woman dreaming of becoming a pianist before finding herself stuck working at Mr. Magorium’s magical toy store.
Not much is known about Portman’s process of preparing for this film, apart from the fact that she learned to play the piano. It’s unclear how much time she spent taking the classes, and if her piano-playing sequences were real or “fixed” in the post-production.
Mastering Other Skills
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium wasn’t Portman’s only project where she was required to pick up a new skill. She won an Academy Award for playing a ballerina in Black Swan, one of the most physically demanding projects of her career.
Portman used to take dance and ballet lessons in her youth and resumed her training about a year before filming Black Swan. She trained for several hours every day and lost almost 20 pounds due to rigorous training and diet.
She also sustained several injuries which led to filming delays and even dislocated a rib during rehearsals. Despite her best attempts, Portman couldn’t master some of the movie’s more complex scenes, and that’s when her body double Sarah Lane jumped in.
Her involvement led to some controversy and many ballet experts felt that Lane didn’t get the credit she deserved. Director Darren Aronofsky defended Portman, saying that she was featured in 80% of dance shots, while the rest showed her body double.
Portman’s Oscar-nominated role in Jackie also required a lot of research. The most difficult part was mimicking the former first lady’s distinctive voice, and she worked closely with dialect coach Tanya Blumstein to get it right.
Hollywood Stars and Piano Lessons
Natalie Portman isn’t the only Hollywood superstar who had to pick up a new instrument while preparing for a movie role. Many actors who starred in musical dramas went down the same road and started taking piano lessons.
Ryan Gosling did a pretty impressive job playing the piano in La La Land, without the use of a hand double. He spent three months taking lessons, and trained for two hours a day until learning to play each song by heart.
Bradley Cooper was equally committed to his role in A Star is Born, and learned to play not one but two instruments. He took six months of guitar and piano lessons to prepare for the role of Jackson Maine, practicing each instrument for two hours a day.
Gosling and Cooper both received Oscar nominations for their piano-playing roles, but Adrien Brody actually managed to win the prestigious award.
He practiced for four hours a day in an attempt to master playing Chopin’s compositions for The Pianist. Holly Hunter is another Oscar winner who impressed us with her piano skills, but she actually knew how to play this instrument before starring in The Piano. The same goes for Isabelle Huppert, who played the piano for 12 years before being cast in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher.