Just 30 pages into his new memoir, “Then It Fell Apart,” musician Moby details meeting actress Natalie Portman in 1999 in Austin, Texas.
In the same month that year, Moby achieved international fame with his breakout album, “Play,” and Portman starred in “The Phantom Menace.”
“I was a bald binge drinker who lived in an apartment that smelled like mildew and old bricks, and Natalie Portman was a beautiful movie star,” he writes. “But here she was in my dressing room, flirting with me.”
He goes on to detail what he calls a dating relationship with Portman, a characterization the “Vox Lux” star has publicly disputed.
“I was surprised to hear that he characterised the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school,” Portman said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK.
“There was no fact checking from him or his publisher — it almost feels deliberate,” she added. “That he used this story to sell his book was very disturbing to me. It wasn’t the case. There are many factual errors and inventions. I would have liked him or his publisher to reach out to fact check.”
Moby responded in an Instagram post Wednesday with a photo of the two of them from that year, evidently meaning to serve as proof. (He’s bare-chested with his arm around Portman.)
“I recently read a gossip piece wherein Natalie Portman said that we’d never dated. This confused me, as we did, in fact, date,” he wrote in the caption. “And after briefly dating in 1999 we remained friends for years. I like Natalie, and I respect her intelligence and activism. But, to be honest, I can’t figure out why she would actively misrepresent the truth about our (albeit brief) involvement.”
He added a postscript: “I completely respect Natalie’s possible regret in dating me (to be fair, I would probably regret dating me, too), but it doesn’t alter the actual facts of our brief romantic history.”
To hear Moby tell it, after her visit to his dressing room, they met up at the MTV Video Music Awards, where Steven Tyler told Moby “she’s so hot,” then attended a Donatella Versace party together where he performed.
“I was thirty-three and she was twenty,” he writes of the night at the VMAs, “but this was her world.” (“He said I was 20; I definitely wasn’t. I was a teenager. I had just turned 18,” Portman told Harper’s. In 1999, she would have turned 18 in June.)
As he performed at the Versace party, he writes, “Natalie was there, dancing with Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. In unison they raised their hands and smiled and cheered. For me. … Somehow a door had opened into this flowing, golden world, and Natalie and Gwyneth and Madonna and David Letterman and Elton John were holding it open, smiling and telling me they loved me.”
In a subsequent chapter, he details an “amazing night” with her in Cambridge, Mass., : “We held hands and wandered around Harvard, kissing under the centuries-old oak trees. At midnight she brought me to her dorm room and we lay down next to each other on her small bed. After she fell asleep I carefully extracted myself from her arms and took a taxi back to my hotel.”
In a third chapter, their relationship reaches past tense: “For a few weeks I had tried to be Natalie’s boyfriend, but it hadn’t worked out,” he writes. “I was relieved that I’d never have to tell her how damaged I was.”
In her interview with Harper’s, Portman described their time together in much less romantic terms.
“I was a fan and went to one of his shows when I had just graduated,” she said. “When we met after the show, he said, ‘let’s be friends’. He was on tour and I was working, shooting a film, so we only hung out a handful of times before I realized that this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate.”
By Thursday, the situation had gotten serious, with Moby writing on Instagram that he had received threats.
“[T]here’s ample photographic evidence that we briefly dated and then were friends(some pictures included in this post),” he wrote. “It hurts to be lied about, especially as I’ve always respected her, and I thought we were friends.
“But I’ve been receiving anonymous threats of violence from her fans, and it’s affecting my business and my health. So what should I do? What do you do when people believe lies and accusations and not actual photographs and evidence? I want to take the high road, but I honestly don’t know what to do.”
In a later Instagram post, Moby wrote that he had decided he was going to allow people to “attack … slander … lie” about him, while he, an activist, would be “trying to save animals and help stop humans from destroying the only home we have. Bye.”
Portman has remained silent on the issue on her own Instagram account.
Times staff writer Christie D’Zurilla contributed to this report.