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Natalie Portman says Mike Nichols was her only male mentor who wasn't 'creepy'

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·2-min read

Watch: Natalie Portman praises Mike Nichols

Natalie Portman has said the late director Mike Nichols was a "genuine feminist" and her only male mentor who wasn't "creepy" with her.

Portman worked with Nichols, who died in 2014, on a number of projects, and has spoken about him in a new book on the revered director.

She revealed that Nichols helped her when she felt out of her depth working alongside Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in his production of Chekhov's The Seagull for the New York Public Theater, back in 2001.

Natalie Portman and director Mike Nichols during

Natalie Portman and director Mike Nichols. (Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)

Speaking for Mike Nichols, A Life, penned by Mark Harris, she said: “I was 19, and I hadn’t done anything I had needed to research except for [play] Anne Frank.

Read more: Natalie Portman on being sexualised in the media at age 12

"I’d watch Phil [Hoffman] write down question after question in his notebook, and Meryl [Streep] would make up songs to sing and put them in her pocket just in case her character suddenly wanted to burst into song.”

Portman with Clive Owen in Closer (Credit: Sony)

Natalie Portman with Clive Owen in Closer. (Sony)

She said Nichols was "the only older man who mentored me without there ever being a creepy element in it".

“I think he was a genuine feminist,” Portman continued. “There was nothing, nothing, nothing there except him seeing you as a creative, interesting, talented human. It is the rarest, finest quality, and not many directors of his generation had it.”

The book also notes her appearance in his 2004 movie Closer, the screen adaptation of the Patrick Marber play, in which she appeared alongside Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts.

Portman played a stripper in the film, with Nichols removing some of the nudity from a strip-club scene at Portman's request. The actress said he "wants to see my bare ass [even] less than my father would".

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22:  Actors Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, director Mike Nichols and Jude Law arrive to the premiere of Columbia Pictures'

Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, director Mike Nichols and Jude Law. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“What he did for me… Lord, may I have that ability to offer that kind of mentorship and guidance to one other person,” she said.

Closer was Nichols' penultimate movie, with comedy drama Charlie Wilson's War starring Tom Hanks following in 2007.

He died following a heart attack in 2014, two weeks after his 83rd birthday.

Mike Nichols, A Life is available to buy now.