Why did Natalie Portman change her name?

Answered by Frank Schwing

Natalie Portman, the American-Israeli actress, made the decision to change her name from Neta-Lee Hershlag early on in her career. This change occurred when she was around 13 years old, during the filming of her debut film, “Leon” in 1994. The reason behind this name change was primarily to protect her privacy, especially considering the nature of her role in the film, which had sexual overtones.

At such a young age, Portman was thrust into the spotlight and faced the challenges of growing up in the public eye. Changing her name allowed her to create a separation between her personal and professional life. By adopting the surname “Portman,” which is her maternal grandmother’s last name, she was able to establish a distinct identity as an actress, separate from her real-life persona.

It is important to note that the role she played in “Leon” was a complex one for a young actress. She portrayed Mathilda, a young girl who forms a unique and intense relationship with a hitman, played by Jean Reno. Given the mature themes and the nature of the character’s interactions with the adult lead, it is understandable that Portman would want to protect her privacy during this formative period of her career.

By changing her name, Portman was able to maintain a sense of anonymity and shield herself from the potential scrutiny and unwanted attention that may have accompanied her newfound fame. This decision allowed her to navigate the industry on her own terms and establish boundaries between her personal and professional life.

In the years that followed, Natalie Portman’s talent and versatility as an actress became evident, leading to numerous acclaimed performances in films such as “Black Swan,” for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. Despite her success, she has remained relatively private and guarded about her personal life, further highlighting the significance of her decision to change her name.

Natalie Portman changed her name from Neta-Lee Hershlag to Portman during her early career to protect her privacy and establish a distinct professional identity. This decision was influenced by her role in the film “Leon” and the need to navigate the challenges of fame at a young age. By adopting her maternal grandmother’s last name, she was able to maintain a sense of anonymity and control over her public image, ultimately allowing her talent as an actress to shine through.