Portman to direct Israeli film

'Professional' actress to adapt 'A Tale of Love'

Natalie Portman might be the poster child for the current wave of international filmmaking.

The Jerusalem-born thesp first came to prominence with her turn at age 14 in Gallic helmer Luc Besson’s debut English-language feature “Leon” (aka “The Professional”).

Since then, she’s worked with a kaleidoscope of international helmers from American George Lucas’ “Star Wars” parts I-III to Israel’s Amos Gitai on “Free Zone,” Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai on “My Blueberry Nights” and Irish director Jim Sheridan on the forthcoming “Brothers,” a remake of Danish director Susanne Bier’s original.

Portman is readying her own directorial feature debut with an adaptation of Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” set in Jerusalem’s war-torn streets of the 1950s and 1960s. Rather than adapt the screenplay into English — a more commercial proposition — Portman is planning to film in its original Hebrew.

While admitting that the next step into directing her first feature is daunting, the 27-year-old Portman is relishing the chance to tell the story of venerated author Oz’s childhood in his native tongue.

“Someone made a good point once about how would you feel if Mexicans came and made a movie about George Washington in Spanish? It would be absurd but we do it all the time,” she tells Variety. “I think people are much more open to reading subtitles now and prefer the authenticity of seeing the true language of that culture. It’s becoming unacceptable to make films in places and in a language they’re not supposed to be in.

“It’s always best to make things as cheaply as possible because then you can take a lot more risk, like doing something in an original language that is not widely spoken,” Portman said moments before receiving the San Pellegrino Movie for Humanity Award at the recent Venice film fest, feting her humanitarian works with children in Africa.

“When I am acting, I have so much free time I can read a book a day,” says Portman. “Directing is so different. Twenty-four hours a day I was always doing something and staying busy. In acting I want to try things that are completely different to who I am, whereas when directing I want it to be much more an expression of who I am.”