Natalie Portman Says Women Are 'Expected to Behave' Differently Than Men at Cannes

Natalie Portman plays an actress researching the life of a woman whose marriage sparked tabloid obsession in May December


Natalie Portman is calling out "the different" ways women are expected to behave in society.

At a press conference for Portman's new movie May December at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, the Oscar winner, 41, noted "the different ways we as women are expected to behave at this festival even compared to men" while discussing the film's themes of performative femininity.

"The whole film is so much about performance and the different roles we play in different environments, for different people, for ourselves, even," Portman, who plays an actress researching a real-life woman (costar Julianne Moore) for an upcoming film within the movie, said, adding that the concept is "something I'm definitely curious about and interested in."

"This aspect of, even here — the different ways we as women are expected to behave at this festival even compared to men," she told reporters during the press conference. "How we're supposed to look, how we're supposed to carry ourselves."

"The expectations are different on you all the time and it affects how you behave, whether you're buying into it, whether you're rejecting it or whether you're doing something in between," Portman added. "You're definitely defined by the social structures upon you."

Related:Natalie Portman Says Her Relationship with Breakout Film The Professional Is 'Complicated For Me'

Lionel Hahn/Getty
Lionel Hahn/Getty

May December follows a couple portrayed by Moore and Charles Melton (Riverdale) who prepare for their children to graduate from high school and go to college some years after their 20-year age difference sparked tabloid obsession when the pair first got together, per a synopsis of the film as described by Variety.

The oncoming change in the family's life is magnified by an actress (Portman) who arrives to study the family for a movie based on their lives, in which she is preparing to play Moore's character, according to the outlet.

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"An age gap is one thing, but a relationship between an adult and a child is something else entirely," Moore, 62, added, when asked about the film's depiction of a romantic relationship with a significant age difference. "Her transgression, I believe, personally, is so enormous that she sort of buries it in her own identity, in her own performative femininity."

Gisela Schober/Getty
Gisela Schober/Getty

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Aside from Portman's return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in last year's Thor installment, the actress and producer recently appeared in her three-part HBO series Angel City, which documents the first year of National Women's Soccer League club Angel City FC's participation in competitive play.

Moore recently appeared in the Apple TV+ movie Sharper following her performances in When You Finish Saving the World and Dear Evan Hansen over the last two years.

May December is directed by Todd Haynes (Carol) and written by co-screenwriters Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik. Portman and Will Ferrell are listed among the movie's producers.

The film is competing for Cannes' Palme d'Or award, the festival's highest honor.

The 2023 Cannes Film Festival runs through May 27.

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