×

Natalie Portman Pulls Out of Prestigious Awards Ceremony in Israel

Knesset member suggests revoking Portman's Israeli citizenship

Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman has pulled out of a prestigious Jerusalem awards ceremony, citing “distress” at recent events in Israel and saying through a representative that she is uncomfortable with travel to Israel at this time.

Portman, a dual Israeli-American citizen, was born in Jerusalem and is beloved by the Israeli public. She was due this June to accept the 2018 Genesis Prize, an annual award given to a Jewish person who has achieved career excellence and international recognition. The prize, which has previously been awarded to actor Michael Douglas and violinist Itzhak Perlman, comes with $2 million this year and is presented at a flashy Jerusalem ceremony attended by dignitaries and local celebrities. Past emcees include Bar Refaeli and Jay Leno.

But the Genesis Prize announced Thursday that it was canceling this year’s ceremony following Portman’s decision to withdraw. Organizers said they had been notified by the actress’s representatives that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”

The announcement came on the same day that Israel celebrated its 70th year of statehood, and amid continued protests at the Israel-Gaza border, in which Israeli soldiers have used live ammunition against Palestinian protesters, killing dozens and wounding hundreds more.

On Friday, Israel’s far-right culture minister, Miri Regev, took to Twitter to criticize Portman’s decision, writing that the actress had “fallen like ripe fruit into the hands” of anti-Israeli activists. Another lawmaker, Oren Hazan, suggested that her Israeli citizenship should be revoked.

Portman has deep connections to Israel In addition to being born in Jerusalem, she visits Tel Aviv often and chose not only to shoot her directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” in Jerusalem, but to do so in Hebrew. She is also openly left-wing and has publicly criticized the current Israeli government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for its policies against Arabs and other minorities. She participated in an online campaign to support regime change during the 2015 Israeli election and said she was dismayed at Netanyahu’s re-election.

The Genesis Prize was established by a cadre of wealthy Russian-Jewish businessmen and is a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel as well as the office of the Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu routinely attends and speaks at the award ceremony. In December, the $1 million prize was doubled by Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn, meaning that Portman would have received $2 million, money she said she would donate in full to programs focused on female empowerment and equality.

The Genesis Prize Foundation has yet to indicate whether Portman will still receive the prize money despite pulling out of the ceremony.

More Film

  • Roman Polanski

    Roman Polanski Sues Film Academy to Be Reinstated

    Film director Roman Polanski is suing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, demanding reinstatement to the prestigious organization after he was expelled last May. The suit, filed in the state of California, says AMPAS did not follow proper protocol in dismissing him nearly a year ago. The Academy did so “in accordance with [...]

  • Lorraine Warren dead

    Lorraine Warren, Paranormal Investigator Who Inspired 'The Conjuring,' Dies at 92

    Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigator and demonologist whose life inspired franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” has died. She was 92. Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera confirmed the news. Spera said on Facebook, “She died peacefully in her sleep at home.” He continued, “She was a remarkable, loving, compassionate and giving soul. To quote Will [...]

  • THE EXORCIST

    'Exorcist' Star Max Von Sydow Doesn't Let Age Define His Roles

    Max von Sydow turned 90 this month, which is a milestone for most people, but age has always seemed incidental to the actor. When he played the elderly, frail Father Merrin in “The Exorcist,” von Sydow was 44 — meaning he was the same age Bradley Cooper is today. In the 1950s, von Sydow had [...]

  • 'Changing the Game' Documentary

    Watch the First Trailer for Trans Documentary 'Changing the Game' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Another hurdle for trans rights could quite literally be the track and field hurdle. Transgender student athletes are put in the spotlight in the forthcoming documentary “Changing the Game,” set to premiere at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety has the world premiere of the doc’s first teaser trailer, which gives an in-depth look into the [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Box Office

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Conjures $2.8 Million on Thursday Night

    “The Curse of La Llorona,” the latest entry in Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Conjuring” universe, conjured $2.75 million from Thursday preview showings, while “Breakthrough,” a faith-based offering from Fox-Disney, brought in $1.5 million from its second day of screenings. “La Llorona’s” haul tops recent horror counterparts “Pet Sematary” and “Escape Room,” which each took [...]

  • Chinese Films Make the Cannes Lineup,

    Cannes: Chinese Films Make the Lineup, but Will They Make It to France?

    Cannes has chosen two mainland Chinese titles for its official selection: Diao Yinan’s “Wild Goose Lake,” in competition, and Zu Feng’s “Summer of Changsha,” for Un Certain Regard. Both films appear to have received the necessary official approvals from Chinese authorities to premiere overseas. But their journey to the Cote d’Azur is by no means [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content