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‘Jackie’ AFI Premiere: Natalie Portman Says Playing Jacqueline Kennedy Challenged Her on Multiple Levels

Jackie” star Natalie Portman captured a reflective mood on the red carpet Monday night at the TCL Chinese Theatre for the Los Angeles premiere at AFI Fest.

Portman said that portraying a grieving Jacqueline Kennedy, following the assassination of President Kennedy was a challenge on two levels.

“The more superficial details — the way she talked, the way she looked, the way she moved — are skills but portraying how she felt takes imagination,” Portman said. “I love that she defined herself as a wife primarily but lived a life that was very counter to that, where she was her own woman. She became the author of her own story and his story.”

Portman also noted that the former First Lady had to deal with a nation that needed her to fill a unique role, noting, “She had to stay much more public than I’ve ever been.”

Beth Grant, who has credits dating back three decades, said her role as Lady Bird Johnson was a career highlight. “I campaigned for Kennedy with my mom in Alabama in 1960 when I was 11 and I always loved Jackie,” she recalled.

Grant said that the memories of the assassination are still fresh.

“I started crying when I read the script,” she recalled. “We were watching the funeral at school and the science teacher was sobbing. I never saw my mother like that. Looking back, I think we needed that riderless horse and we needed the world leaders walking with her. It was great leadership.”

“Jackie” director Pablo Larrain, a native of Chile, introduced the movie with fulsome praise for the cast, Noah Oppenheim’s script and producers Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Mickey Liddell and brother Juan Larrain before turning to the recent election.

“This is an invitation to think about who’s going to be in the White House,” he noted.

The movie, which Fox Searchlight opens Dec. 2, centers on Jacqueline Kennedy’s final days in the White House following the assassination. Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Richard E. Grant and John Hurt co-star in the film.

The film won the best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival and the Platform prize at the Toronto Film Festival.

(Pictured: Pablo Lorrain, Natalie Portman and Greta Gerwig)

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