The Other Boleyn Girl
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Scarlett versus Natalie

The Other Boleyn Girl
By Susan King, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

In the new historical melodrama “The Other Boleyn Girl,” which opens Friday, Natalie Portman plays Anne Boleyn, the woman who would become the second of six wives of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana), only to be beheaded. Scarlett Johansson plays Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, and rival for the hand and the bed of the handsome Henry.

What would happen if we pit Portman and Johansson together as rivals? Who would win that competition? They are popular, highly in-demand young women in their 20s who mix major studio films with small, independent fare. They have both made successful transitions from child actress to adult, received major award nominations and been the muses of legendary directors. Neither has shied away from nudity. But who is actually the better actress? Or are they on an even playing field? (Alex Bailey / Columbia Pictures / Focus Features)
Natalie Portman
Just the Facts

Natalie Portman

Birth name: Natalie Hershlag

Born: June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem

Beginnings: Started taking dancing lessons at 4; dreamed of dancing on Broadway. Was discovered at a Long Island pizza parlor by an agent for Revlon who wanted her to model. Portman turned it down, preferring to be an actress. She spent her holidays at theater camps. In 1994, Portman auditioned for Luc Besson’s thriller “The Professional.” Initially turned down, she auditioned again and won the role of a streetwise orphan girl who befriends an assassin (Jean Reno). She took her grandmother’s maiden name as her stage name. (Dave Hogan / Getty Images)
Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson

Born: Nov. 22, 1984, in New York City

Beginnings: The actress has stated that her mother is a film buff; Johansson began her training by attending and eventually graduating in 2002 from the Professional Children’s School. Her mother took her on several auditions; she made her film debut in Rob Reiner’s 1994 flop “North.”

Winner: Portman, because she was the female lead and received good notices for her scrappy performance. (Marcus Brandt / AFP / Getty Images)
The “Horse” connection

Portman was courted to appear in Robert Redford’s 1998 adaptation of the blockbuster novel “The Horse Whisperer,” but she turned it down to make her Broadway debut in the 1997-98 revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Johansson ended up starring opposite Redford in the box-office hit, a weepie for which she received excellent reviews.

Winner: A tie. Portman got to make her Broadway debut at the tender age of 16, and “Horse Whisperer” put Johansson on the cinematic map. (Ken Regan / Camera 5)
Star Wars

George Lucas turned Portman into a full-fledged international star when he cast her as Padme Amidala, the woman who would become the mother of Luke and Leia, in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy.

Woody Allen has fallen under the spell of Johansson, casting her in “Match Point,” “Scoop” and the upcoming “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” in which she reportedly has a steamy sex scene with Penelope Cruz.

“Scarlett is just a naturally great actress,” Allen has stated. ”She can do no wrong and is incapable of a bad moment. She’s very sexy, very pretty. She was just touched by God.”

Winner: Johansson. Although “Star Wars” made Portman a household name, Allen is a far better director than Lucas, who seems ill at ease directing humans. (Lucasfilm, LTD / Clive Coote / DreamWorks)
Natalie Portman / Scarlett Johansson

Portman was a straight-A student who event-skipped the premiere of “Star Wars: Episode I” in 1999 so she could study for her high school finals. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in psychology in 2003 — she was Alan Dershowitz’s research assistant — and did postgraduate studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2004. Two years ago, she was a guest lecturer at a Columbia University course in terrorism and counterterrorism. She’s bilingual in Hebrew and English and has studied French, Japanese, German and Arabic.

Johansson attended high school.

Winner: A no-brainer here — Portman (Shaun Curry / Associated Press)
Star Wars
Box office

Portman: Lifetime gross: $1,373,814,410; average: $98,129,601

Johansson: Lifetime gross: $391,699,628; average: $21,761,000

Winner: Thanks to the “Star Wars” films, Portman is the clear winner. (Lucasfilm)
Natalie Portman
Awards: Portman

Nomination highlights:

Golden Globe for supporting actress for 1999’s “Anywhere but Here”

Oscar and BAFTA nominations for supporting actress for 2004’s “Closer”


Teen Choice Awards, Choice Movie Actress: drama-action adventure for 2002’s “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”

Golden Globe for best supporting actress for “Closer”

National Board of Review for best acting by an ensemble for “Closer”

San Diego Film Critics Society Award for supporting actress for “Closer”

The Constellation Awards, best female performance in a 2006 science fiction film, TV movie or miniseries for “V for Vendetta” (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Scarlett Johansson
Awards: Johansson

Nomination highlights:

BAFTA nomination for best actress in lead role for 2003’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring”

Broadcast Film Critics Assn. Award for supporting actress for 2003’s “Lost in Translation”

Golden Globe nominations for best actress in a musical or comedy for “Lost in Translation,” best actress in a drama for “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” best actress in a drama for 2004’s “A Love Song for Bobby Long” and best actress in a supporting role for 2005’s “Match Point”


BAFTA for best actress in a leading role for “Lost in Translation”

Boston Society of Film Critics Award for best actress in “Lost in Translation”

Hasty Pudding Theatricals, woman of the year for 2007

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Award, new generation award in 2004

Toronto Film Critics Assn. Award for supporting performance for 2001’s “Ghost World”

Venice Film Festival, upstream prize for “Lost in Translation”

Winner: Portman. Johansson has actually won more awards, but Portman did win the Golden Globe for best actress and has an Oscar nomination under her belt. (Dave Hogan / Getty Images)
Natalie Portman


A vegetarian since she was a child, Portman has been a lifelong advocate for animal rights and won’t eat animal products or wear fur, feathers or leather. “All of my shoes are from Target and Stella McCartney,” she has said. Last year, she and Jack Hanna went to Rwanda to film a documentary, “Gorillas on the Brink,” and she also found time to launch her own vegan footwear.


She’s a global ambassador for the aid and development confederation Oxfam and a supporter of Barack Obama. She has campaigned for the Democratic presidential hopeful and recently appeared in the music video “Yes We Can,” which was inspired by Obama’s speech after the New Hampshire primary.

Winner: A tie, but anyone who loves animals has a slight edge. (John MacDougall / AFP / Getty Images)
Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman


She’s been linked with cuties Gael Garcia Bernal and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine and singer-actor Lukas Haas, and reportedly has dated Nat Rothschild. She was also seen at last year’s U.S. Open with former male model Nathan Bogle.


She’s been linked with numerous men, including Derek Jeter, Benicio Del Toro, Jared Leto, Justin Timberlake and Josh Hartnett. She is currently dating “Definitely Maybe” star Ryan Reynolds but has denied rumors that they are engaged. She has stated that she doesn’t believe in monogamy but is not promiscuous. She even gets tested for HIV twice a year and has said “it’s part of being a decent human being.”

Winner: A tie — both have dated their share of winners and losers. (Hermann J. Knippertz / Associated Press)
Natalie Portman
So who is the fairest of them all?


She tops Johansson in five of the categories, with Johansson winning one and the two tying in three. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images)