Right off the bat, Padmé is presented as the love interest of Anikan Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace and she is clearly much older than him. So how old was Natalie Portman when she played Padmé in Star Wars?
Natalie Portman was only sixteen when filming began on the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The first film was shot in 1997, the second was shot in 2000 when she was nineteen, and the third in 2003 when she was twenty-one. Although the films were initially unable to live up to the hype surrounding them, they have grown a fan-base with time.
You can read more below about Natalie Portman’s role in Star Wars and the general reception of the films at the time.
Natalie Portman as Padmé
Natalie Portman’s career started well before she was in the Star Wars franchise, but the movies were her very first big-budget films. Up to this point, she had only been in supporting roles like when she played Al Pacino’s suicidal daughter in Heat.
Although she was unfamiliar with the saga at the time of being cast, Portman made the effort to watch all of the films from the seventies in order to learn about the world she would be immersed in.
Portman was set to play the role of Queen Padmé Amidala, the love interest of young Anikan Skywalker. Since Padmé spoke with a British accent, Portman had to learn how to speak with one.
In order to do so, she studied the accents of Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Katharine Hepburn. Learning how to do these accents not only assisted her in her role as Padmé but helped her to secure other roles in the future.
At only sixteen, she had become a fairly talented actress but she struggled throughout the filming of The Phantom Menace. This was because she was not used to filming for special effects and the whole experience threw her off.
To add to the stress of the situation, she was still studying in high school. Portman actually missed the premiere of Episode I – The Phantom Menace to study for her high school final exams.
It may have been a good thing that she missed the premiere because a lot of critics were not impressed with the film.
Critical & Fan Reception of Star Wars: Episodes I, II, & III
As mentioned above, the overall reception of these films was not very good. This could have been largely due to the hype that fans had generated around the new prequels.
It had been sixteen years since the original films debuted and they were a massive success. They gained a huge fan following, critics raved about the ingenuity of the films, and they made a ton of money.
A lot of fans actually criticize George Lucas for selling out after the movies made it big. There were action figures, lightsaber toys, and they even made that terrible Christmas movie, although Lucas has said he hates that one.
If you haven’t seen The Star Wars Holiday Special, you need to. It features all of the original cast who were basically forced into doing the film because of their contracts.
A lot of people think that Jar Jar Binks was the worst thing to come out of the Star Wars franchise and those people clearly haven’t seen The Star Wars Holiday Special. If you’re still not convinced, check out the video below where you can watch a compilation of some of the scenes from the movie.
Episode’s one through three definitely do not even come close to being as bad as the holiday special, but you wouldn’t know from the way people reacted to them. Many were not impressed with the use of special effects.
Annlee Ellingson at Boxoffice Magazine expressed that sentiment perfectly saying “Eye candy isn’t a reward in and of itself — it has to be backed by substance.”
Natalie Portman recalled in a 2019 interview with Empire that it was a bummer to receive all of the backlash when the films came out. She said “It felt like people were so excited about new ones and then to have people feel disappointed. Also to be at an age that I didn’t really understand that’s kind of the nature of the beast.”
While it may not have been the nicest introduction to big-budget films, Natalie Portman has gained a lot of fans because she played Padmé. The Star Wars prequel films have gained a much larger fanbase with the younger audience now too.