Revenge of the Body Doubles: 'Black Swan' Snub

"Flashdance" flashback? Professional dancer trashes "stiff Portman."

March 27, 2011, 5:40 PM

March 27, 2011— -- The nasty post-Oscar battle between Natalie Portman and her dancing double, Sarah 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.

Both movies featured dance doubles that felt snubbed. The only difference seems to be the Oscar.

Lane, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre and Natalie Portman's dancing double for "Black Swan," has spoken out to let everyone know that she did the tricky stuff.

She told "Entertainment Weekly" that the public has been misled about how much twirling Portman did in the film.

"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."

The ballerina'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, 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, but she was very candid about using a dance double for the complicated routines in interviews before the Oscars.

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."

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 Tuesday.

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