Natalie Portman is one of the most acclaimed and celebrated names in Hollywood, having risen to stardom at the age of 12 with her role in action-drama Léon: The Professional.
Since then, she has starred in several iconic roles and worked on huge blockbuster films.
Just recently, Natalie Portman released her MasterClass course about acting and as a fan of her work, I decided to try it to see what she has to say about her craft.
In this review, I discuss the topics covered in Natalie Portman’s MasterClass, its pros and cons, and whether or not the course was worth my time and money.
Let’s take a look.
First, what is MasterClass?
Before we stuck into the Natalie Portman MasterClass review, let’s quickly go over what MasterClass is and how much it costs.
MasterClass is making waves as an online education platform because the instructors are some of the world’s most successful people.
Want Timbaland to teach you about music production? Gordon Ramsay to teach you cooking? Daniel Negreanu to teach you poker? Alicia Keys to teach you songwriting? Chris Voss to teach you negotiation? Jeff Koons to teach you creativity? Ron Finley to teach you gardening? Then MasterClass is for you.
The format of MasterClass is pretty standard for the e-learning industry. You get access to lessons in the form of videos and notes.
What makes MasterClass unique, and utterly compelling, is this:
- The instructors are legends in their field. MasterClass has 90+ instructors and all of them are household names. It’s pretty staggering how MasterClass was able to recruit these instructors to come aboard.
- The video lessons are epic. This is because the production quality is Hollywood level good and that the instructors are so candid when they talk about their craft.
I’ve taken over a dozen MasterClasses and I found each one valuable. You can read about my overall experience with MasterClass in my review here.
In my opinion, I’ve found MasterClass more engaging and useful for my brain than binge-watching Netflix all day.
I’m sure you’re wondering:
If you want to consume just one class, it will set you back $90.
But MasterClass also offers an All-Access Pass that gives you unlimited access to every class for $180 per year.
They’ve also got a money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied within 30 days, you can get a full refund.
I have the All-Acess Pass option as I originally signed up for the writing courses. It’s completely up to you though, obviously.
Why I Decided to Check Out the Natalie Portman MasterClass
Full disclosure: I’m not an actor nor do I ever intend to become one, but I was drawn to Natalie Portman’s MasterClass course because I always love her films.
If you’re a huge movie geek like me, it’s impossible not to come across a movie starring Natalie Portman at least once.
She played Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequels, Evey Hammond in comic-book adaptation V for Vendetta, and Jane Foster in Marvel’s Thor films.
If you aren’t into those kinds of films, maybe Natalie Portman has awed you in her other works like the psychological thriller Black Swan or biopic Jackie.
Aside from being an iconic face in Hollywood, I’ve also always admired Natalie Portman for her intelligence.
At the time she was filming episodes I, II, III of the Star Wars prequels, she was also attending Harvard University for a degree in Psychology.
This MasterClass experience was essentially a chance to see Natalie Portman’s process as a well-established, thoughtful actress.
The great thing about having Natalie Portman tutor you in acting is that she understands what it’s like to get into acting without any formal training.
She starred in her first few roles as a self-taught 12-year old prodigy before enrolling in acting school, so she knows what it’s like to start from scratch.
With the acting MasterClass course, you get a unique look at how Natalie Portman develops her characters, maneuvers around the camera, and interprets real-life figures such as Anne Boleyn and Jackie Kennedy.
I especially appreciated Natalie Portman’s MasterClass because it was less about acting theories and more about the application.
Her philosophy is all about empathy, collaboration, and creativity.
She doesn’t assume students have a natural gift for acting as she did. Rather, she showed what is possible with hard work and an open mind.
Plus, I thought that learning how to act would offer a lot of benefits in itself, like helping me overcome shyness.
As it turns out, acting is useful regardless of the industry you’re in.
For example, one of the course chapters covers empathizing with characters and understanding their motivations.
As another reviewer noted, Natalie Portman’s insights on character-building helped them as a writer because they learned to go in-depth with their characters’ desires.
In general, I was excited to start Natalie Portman’s acting MasterClass because it looked really fun to watch and to participate.
If it was another talented, veteran actor like Samuel L. Jackson (who has his own MasterClass course!), I might have been more intimidated.
After reading the reviews, I was encouraged to try Natalie Portman’s course because she sounded like a dynamic and relaxed instructor.
Now that I’ve finished her MasterClass, I can attest that Natalie Portman knows her stuff and can make acting look easy but exciting.
What Natalie Portman’s MasterClass Is All About
One of the first things you notice about Natalie is just how straightforward she is as an instructor.
She manages to pack in so much information into a 3-hour long-acting course with her clear delivery.
Off the top of my head, here are just some of the topics her class covers:
- How to develop your acting in relation to the character
- How to draw inspiration from books, documentaries, and other resources
- How to use your physicality to inhabit the character
- How to research and train for speaking in a dialect
- How to do improvisation with some truth-telling
- How to effectively collaborate with fellow actors and directors
- How to work with the cameras, sets, and a green screen
Critics often talk about the soulful, tragic characters Natalie Portman plays and how much emotional gravitas she brings to each of them.
In her MasterClass, Natalie Portman puts an emphasis on empathy and understanding your character.
Even though a lot of her acting is instinctive, her MasterClass shows you how Natalie Portman breaks down a role and nails it using practical tools and tricks.
She instructs you on how to get to know your character by analyzing the script, mapping out the character’s journey, and thinking about how your particular character relates to other characters in the film.
Natalie Portman will ask you to choose a character you want to play and deconstruct them using the techniques she mentioned, as well as a few worksheets in the PDF workbook.
This helped me understand exactly where the character is headed in each scene; not just physically, but also their motivations and emotions.
Once you have a clear understanding of who the character is, she gives you techniques to develop them so they become more convincing.
Among all the other MasterClasses on acting, Natalie Portman’s approach is unique because she gives modules dedicated to character research.
I was surprised that the character isn’t really given to an actor but it’s more of the actor creating the character.
Aside from research on how to play historical characters, Natalie Portman goes in-depth with her modules on her dialect coach.
She brings her dialect coach Tanya Blumstein to help her break down how they achieved Jackie Kennedy’s distinct accent.
Later on in the course, she teaches you how to use all the other elements to help build and move your character around props, sets, costumes, and even the camera.
You learn how to play off with other actors and listen to the guidance offered by the director.
I enjoyed the MasterClass immensely because it’s not a super rigid, step-by-step procedure.
Rather, Natalie Portman equips you with what you need to know so you can adapt her techniques to your unique style.
Who Is Natalie Portman’s Acting MasterClass for?
Natalie Portman’s MasterClass offers a great look at filmmaking from an actor’s perspective.
Even the most casual of Natalie Portman fans would appreciate what she has to offer in this course.
However, this acting MasterClass is best suited for students who want to get deeper into acting.
Although the course is entertaining and offers plenty of insights, it isn’t for everyone. Let’s manage a few expectations you might have:
You won’t cover any theories: Natalie Portman’s MasterClass is not an alternative to drama school.
It doesn’t really cover theories on emotional delivery.
Rather, it’s more about visual believability using gestures, linguistics, and interaction with the sets and props.
Due to the limited time, you see Natalie Portman demonstrate how to move around a set but not delve into the psychological complexity of the scene.
There are only a handful of scene analysis clips: For the three-hour duration of the course, Natalie Portman doesn’t really delve into a lot of scene analysis or case studies.
Mostly, she covers clips from Jackie, Black Swan, and Annihilation.
It doesn’t focus on breaking into acting: It’s important to remember that Natalie Portman began her career as a child actress and has been in the industry for such a long time that getting into the industry isn’t the primary focus of her class.
However, she will offer advice on auditions and how to make a lasting impression.
Overall, I would say that this MasterClass was very practical and intended for a general audience.
It wasn’t so much about emotional expression but dwelled on what it takes to create a convincing performance, by how you research your roles and carry yourself on the set.
Natalie Portman shows the more interesting elements of acting through discussion scenes and demonstrations.
I do think a student who already has foundational acting skills would benefit more from Natalie Portman’s tips.
Students who want to enhance their character-building skills and improve their physicality for their next role would gain the most from this course.
You may also want to complement this course with other exclusive content on MasterClass.
Combining this with class with Helen Mirren’s acting MasterClass may give you a more holistic set of insights.
Overall, Natalie Portman’s course is a great way to level up your acting skills, reframe the way you think about the film industry, and boost your confidence to pursue a new role.
What Makes Natalie Portman the Perfect Mentor
Natalie Portman’s career has been long and illustrious, as she began taking on serious acting roles at the age of 12.
She has since starred in around 40 films before even turning 40 years old, which is a remarkable feat considering how she juggled her university education at the same time while filming.
Some of her most notable achievements include:
- Closer: Best Supporting Actress at the 2004 Golden Globe Awards
- V for Vendetta: Best Actress in a Film at the 2006 Saturn Awards
- Black Swan: Best Actress at the 2010 Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards
- Jackie: Best Actress at the 2016 Golden Globe Awards
Her talents are not limited to the screen, however, as she did have a stint on the stage.
In 2001, Natalie Portman acted in a Chekhov play entitled The Seagull alongside Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Aside from acting, Natalie Portman has also written, directed, and produced films since 2009 — making her a highly-qualified MasterClass mentor for anything related to the film industry.
I was surprised about how good an instructor Natalie Portman is.
She had a vivid but direct way of delivering the learning material.
She was incredibly thorough while giving her advice but never managed to be boring.
Later on, I learned that she once served as a guest lecturer at Columbia University, which is why she seemed so confident in her role as a teacher.
Aside from sharing secrets on how to become an award-winning actor, Natalie Portman also has a lot to impart about building character through discipline and professionalism.
She doesn’t hold back on what she knows and shares what she learned over her long film career.
Everything You Get With Natalie Portman’s Master Class
Much like other MasterClasses, Natalie Portman’s MasterClass is a 2.5 hours-long course divided into a number of video lessons.
Some of the resources you can expect to get when you sign-up for the acting course include:
A downloadable PDF Workbook: Each MasterClass course provides a PDF Workbook for extra learning.
Natalie Portman’s Workbook is 61-pages long and contains chapter recaps, additional readings, exercises, assignments, supplementary lessons, and even links to useful resources.
The Workbook allows you to engage in a more hands-on form of learning so you can refresh what you have learned and delve into further research.
Access to the Community Hub: The Community Hub on MasterClass is a forum where you can connect with your fellow classmates.
You can begin a discussion, provide feedback, and even get critique on your assignments.
This interactive portion allows you to deepen your understanding and forge connections with like-minded students.
You also see the comments and videos uploaded by students in response to each lesson.
20 lecture videos: The heart of the acting course is in the lecture videos, which are around 10-minutes long.
Here, the lesson topics were developed by Natalie Portman herself so you get to see case studies, documentary footage, and live demos she prepared herself.
It’s a manageable course to take because lessons are divided into bite-sized sections and you can freely rewatch, rewind, fastforward, or pause if you want to take notes or try out her techniques.
To get a better idea of what each lesson under Natalie Portman would look like, here is a summary of the curriculum she planned:
Meet Your Instructor: Award-winning actress Natalie Portman shares her history with the film industry and the personal techniques she developed as a self-taught actor.
Getting To Know Your Character: Natalie Portmant teaches you on how to understand your characters by looking for insightful details, analyzing influential relationships, and creating the timeline or arc your character will undergo.
Developing Your Character Through Research: In order to develop your character, you would have to check real-life historical sources, documentaries, and YouTube videos to understand character behavior and motivations.
Developing Your Character’s Physicality: In this section, Natalie Portman teaches you how to use your body, wardrobe, and makeup to fully embody your role.
Scene Studies: Physical Gesture: You will look at three performances chosen by Natalie Portman that display outstanding physicality to reveal character.
Case Study: “Black Swan”: In the case study, Natalie Portman reveals how she trained for her role as a tortured ballerina in “Black Swan”.
Dialect Coaching: Research and Practice: Natalie Portman and her dialect coach Tanya Blumestein demonstrate on how they prepare for roles that involve a foreign accent or dialect.
Dialect Coaching in “Jackie”: You’ll see how Natalie Portman prepared to take on First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s accent.
Working on Set: Natalie Portman shares her tips for working on set, like connecting with co-actors, handling vulnerability, and maintaining your energy throughout shooting.
Performing on Camera: You will hear about Natalie Portman’s personal process of working in front of a camera.
Working With Directors: Natalie Portman instructs you on how to navigate your relationship and build on your rapport with the director.
Successful Collaborations With Directors: Natalie Portman shares what she learned while working with directors Darren Aronofsky, Anthony Minghella, Mike Nichols, and Pablo Larraín.
Case Study: Working With Terrence Malick: As an unconventional director, Natalie Portman also relates her experience with Terrence Malick.
Playing A Real Character: You would learn about how to stay true to historical facts while leaving room for your own flair when you play a historical figure.
Assignments in Developing Performance: This chapter combines everything you learned so far as Natalie Portman guides you through analyzing well-known films.
Improvisation: Natalie Portman’s improv chapter will help you learn to be alert, respond to physical or verbal cues, and actively listen.
Demo: Working With The Set, Props, and Camera: You will see Natalie Portman in action as she explains how to go through a sample scene.
Green-Screen Acting: Natalie Portman covers practical tips on how to act in front of a green-screen.
Advice for Actors: As the penultimate section, Natalie Portman imparts her last pieces of advice on working in the industry.
Active Empathy: For her final lesson, Natalie Portman summarizes her acting philosophy as a practice of empathy.
Is Natalie Portman’s MasterClass Worth It?
If you don’t have much of a background on what acting is like, this MasterClass is a good place to start.
You might not learn a lot (technique-wise) if you’re already a serious actor but you might pick up on new insights from someone who has worked on projects in different genres.
Based on the 4.7 of 5 stars average rating on the site, many students were satisfied with this course as it helped prepare them to take on more complex roles.
As a gifted actress, Natalie Portman makes the complicated parts of acting look easy and fun to do. I would also recommend this class: 10/10.
The All-Access Pass would be my preferred way to access this MasterClass, as it gives you access to 90+ other courses from experts on different topics.
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