March 29, 2011 -- "Black Swan" actress Mila Kunis joins the ranks of Natalie Portman defenders after dance-double Sarah Lane claimed that she did most of the fancy footwork in the movie.
"Natalie danced her a** off," Kunis told Entertainment Weekly. "I think it's unfortunate that this is coming out and taking attention away from [the praise] Natalie deserved and got. It was more like a safety net. If Nat wasn't able to do something, you'd have a safety net. The same thing that I had -- I had a double as a safety net. We all did. No one ever denied it."
Kunis, who co-starred with Portman in the movie, and "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky have come out in support of Portman, who won an Oscar for her performance.
"Here is the reality," Aronofsky said in a statement released Monday through studio Fox Searchlight. "I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film -- 111 are Natalie Portman untouched, 28 are her dance-double Sarah Lane. If you do the math, that's 80 percent Natalie Portman."
Aronofsky went on to talk about the amount of time both were on screen. "The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second," he said. "There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement [for]. Even so, if we were judging by time, over 90 percent would be Natalie Portman."
Lane, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, told Entertainment Weekly Friday that the public had been misled about how much twirling Portman did in the film. She told The Wall Street Journal that she made $6,000 for about six weeks of work. The move has grossed $281.6 million worldwide.
"On the full-body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie," Lane said. "I mean, from a professional dancer's standpoint, she doesn't look like a professional ballet dancer at all and she can't dance in pointe shoes. And she can't move her body. She's very stiff."
Aronofsky took issue with Lane's comment on pointe shoes.
"To be clear, Natalie did dance on pointe in pointe shoes," the director said of the classical ballet technique calling for dancers to stay on the tips of their toes. "If you look at the final shot of the opening prologue, which lasts 85 seconds, and was danced completely by Natalie, she exits the scene on pointe. That is completely her without any digital magic."
Lane's comments were in response to an interview that Portman's fiance and choreographer Benjamin Millepied gave to the Los Angeles Times.
"There are articles now talking about her dance double that are making it sound like [Lane] did a lot of the work but, really, she just did the footwork, and the fouettes [whipping movements], and one diagonal in the studio," Millepied said. "Honestly, 85 percent of that movie was Natalie."
Portman has kept quiet since the war of words began last week, although she was candid about using a dance-double for the complicated routines in interviews before the Oscars.
Aronofsky, however, decided to speak up.
"I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor," he said. "Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance.
"And I don't want anyone to think that's not her they are watching. It is."
Revenge of the Body Doubles: 'Black Swan' Dancer Sarah Lane Blasts Portman
It seems that this is all about credit. Lane told EW that she was never promised a particular title for her work, but was disappointed that when the credits rolled she was credited as a "Hand Model," "Stunt Double," and "Lady in the Lane."
She also said she was told by a producer not to talk to the press.
The filmmakers at Fox Searchlight challenged Lane's assertions in statement released over the weekend.
"We were fortunate to have Sarah there to cover the more complicated dance sequences and we have nothing but praise for the hard work she did," the statement said. "However, Natalie herself did most of the dancing featured in the film."
Fox has also removed a digitally enhanced version of a cut of the movie from YouTube that EW called an "unverified version" of a clip reel of the movie, reportedly showing how digital replacement was used to put Portman's head on Lane's body.
Of course part of the mirage of the movie experience is one where we probably don't want an intrusive "Warning: You Are Now Watching a Body Double" crawl on the bottom of the film screen.
But it appears as if it's a bigger deal when it's a dancing double as opposed to a singing double, as famously used by Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" or Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady."
The nasty post-Oscar battle between Portman and Lane, over who did what on the "Black Swan" dance floor is a flashback to the 1983 dance blockbuster "Flashdance," which was panned by critics but a box office smash.
During the "Flashdance" debacle we heard a similar back and forth.
Jennifer Beals dance double, Marine Jahan, told "Entertainment Tonight" that producers hid her involvement because "they didn't want to break the magic of the film."
Jahan, like Lane, was also unhappy that her name wasn't in the credits.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the filmmakers responded by saying that Beals "would be the first to admit some of the more complicated turns would have to be doubled," adding that expert stand-ins for dancing are "very common."
The "Flashdance" dance double controversy didn't affect sales at the box office back in the day, and the feud with Lane over "Black Swan" will likely boost sales of the DVD, which, conveniently, comes out on today.