America's number-one movie last weekend deals with America's number one fear.
"V for Vendetta," which brought in more than $25 million at the box office its first three days, is a politically charged wild ride of a movie. It's got spooky characters, lots of action, and a simple but highly controversial message: Maybe terrorism is right sometimes.
The film, an Orwellian imagining of London in the year 2020, tells the story of a mysterious dissident named V. His accomplice -- not altogether willing -- is a young woman named Evey, played by Natalie Portman.
"I am proud of this movie," Portman said. "I think this film is ultimately, at its base, entertainment, a very entertaining movie. And it also has a lot of ideas about how much a government can limit the rights of its people before the people need to make their voice heard."
Movie With a Message?
The main character in "V" makes his voice heard by blowing up government buildings, earning the film no shortage of controversy.
The film, in which the bad guys are Christian arch-conservatives who exploit fear of terrorism and persecute homosexuals, wears its politics on its sleeve -- and so does Portman. When she appeared on "Good Morning America" during the 2004 presidential election, she wore a John Kerry t-shirt.
But Portman insists the film is non-partisan.
"Obviously, there are many interpretations of this film -- and all of them are valid and any criticism is completely valid," she said. "I've heard Republicans who love this movie."
Conservatives are not amused. MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough called the film, "a vulgar, ham-fisted attempt at political protest."
"V" has taken a lot of criticism, and Portman has fielded a lot of questions.
"I feel like I'm on trial a little bit," she said.
Glorifying Terrorism 'The Last Thing on My Mind'
To some observers, it seems an odd time for a rising star to take on such a controversial role. Portman is best known for playing Queen Amidala in the most recent "Star Wars" movies, but she also earned an Oscar nomination for playing a stripper in Mike Nichols' "Closer."
The 24-year-old actress insists she can handle the controversy. The only position she adamantly rejects is the suggestion that by appearing in the film she is endorsing terrorism.
Portman was born in Israel, and her father's parents died in Auschwitz. Questions of tyranny and terrorism are not idle ones for her.
"I'm the last person to ever want to justify or glorify terrorism," Portman said. "I have too many personal experiences to convey -- and too private to convey -- but it is the last thing on my mind."
Instead, she said, her personal history encouraged her to take the role.
"People have accused the Israeli government of terrorism, have sort of turned the word back on the government," she said. "So it's a very two sided thing that made me really question the definition of terrorism."