I like stuntmen. They do the hardest, most dangerous work on a movie set but most people never know their names. And they understand that their job isn’t so much to be lit on fire or to crash a car or to take a fall but rather to make the stars look good. So what that means is that Tom Cruise stands up and says ‘I do all my own stunts’ and the legions of stuntmen who did his stunts stand quietly.
Sarah Lane, who dance doubled for Natalie Portman in Black Swan, seems to not understand the kind of honor system that motivates stunt men to stand away from the spotlight. The dancer is complaining to Entertainment Weekly that she did most of the full body dancing in the movie, which won Portman an Oscar.
No shit, Lane. There’s some back and forth about how much dancing is being done by Portman versus Lane and in which kinds of shots - full body, upper body, etc - but none of that matters. Nobody went to go see Black Swan because they wanted to see Portman dance. Nobody will be clamoring for a refund just because Portman doesn’t do her own dancing anymore than they clamor for a refund at the end of Star Trek because there’s no actual Starship Enterprise. It’s the fucking movies.
The role of a stuntman, or a dance double, or a special effects team, is to create false reality so that the audience can be lost in the suspension of disbelief. The best stuntman is one who makes you believe the star is jumping from the burning building without question. The best FX team is the one that never makes you question the superhuman feats of the lead hero. And the best dance double is the one that allows you to think that Natalie Portman is the best dancer in the company.
Yeah, everybody talks about the work that the actors do in preparation. Portman studied dance for months. But that was just to allow her to give the illusion of dancing, not to actually get on stage and perform in a ballet. Movies are a collaborational artform where most of the artists are invisible. It’s the nature of the beast.
So yeah, Sarah Lane, I bet you’re an incredible dancer. But when you go complaining to Entertainment Weekly that Portman didn’t do her own dancing you’re a shitty, shitty dance double.