How I Became Jackie Kennedy
Fairlady|February 2017

Natalie Portman shares the surprising discoveries she made about the iconic First Lady when she took on the role of Jackie Kennedy in what is being touted as an Oscar-winning performance.

Gabrielle Donelly

A doorbell rings in a luxury mansion in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts on a chilly early winter day. A dark-haired woman answers and warily regards the journalist standing on the steps. It’s November 1963 and America is reeling from the assassination of its president, John F Kennedy, just a week earlier, and the reporter has been sent to wrest from his enigmatic widow what really happened that day, and what she’s feeling now.

And so begins Jackie, the acclaimed and, at times, shockingly intimate portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, played by Oscar winner Natalie Portman. Using the Life magazine writer’s interview with the grief-stricken First Lady as its framework, the film moves between that tragic day and its immediate aftermath, weaving in moments from her earlier time in the White House to present her as a highly complex character full of contradictions.

The story of what happened on 22 November in Dallas has been told countless times, of course: the open-car motorcade through the streets; the president smiling and waving; his wife beside him, pretty as a picture in a pink Chanel-inspired suit and pillbox hat. The gunshots, the collapse of the body, and the plunging of an entire nation into grief and bewilderment.

But for Chilean director Pablo Larraín, there’s another story to be told on top of the one related in the official report of the incident, the Warren Commission. ‘The commission gives a very graphic description of the way the president was killed,’ he tells me when we meet in Los Angeles. ‘It was harsh and violent, and it changed everything. But it just says that the president’s wife was “on his left”. We’re telling the story from the point of view that, not only was she sitting next to him, but he was sitting next to her. We wanted to see what happened to her during that time.

‘I did a lot of research on her before I took on this project, and I discovered she was very good at protecting her privacy when she wanted to. There was an incredible amount we didn’t know about what she was really feeling at certain times. I think that in many ways she’s the most unknown of the known women of the 20th century.

‘I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Natalie in the role. She has a quality of mystery to her that I thought was essential to the character. Natalie has the sensibility of Jackie – the beauty, the sophistication – and she resembles her physically, too. But what’s more important to me is that you can look at her, even in close-up, and there’s something you don’t know. There’s something in her eyes that opens to an unknown galaxy. We did a lot of close-ups in the film for that very reason.’

In truth, the familiarity on screen is almost unsettling. The dark dramatic hair framing a porcelain-pretty face. The skittish, fawn-like movements. The breathy little-girl voice. The occasional fleeting moves and glances that betray a core of pure steel. There are times when you’re watching the film that you have to remind yourself it’s not in fact the First Lady, but Natalie Portman.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FAIRLADYView All

How to Survive the Feast-Or Famine Cycle

It’s empowering to have more than one income stream, but there is a downside: it’s easy to splurge when money is plentiful, but what about the lean months? Three self-starters share their tips for keeping an even keel through good and bad.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Kaley's Comet

Kaley Cuoco was so beguiling as Penny on The Big Bang Theory that she soon became one of the highest paid actors in television. With HBO’s comedic thriller series The Flight Attendant, she entered exciting, slightly sinister new territory – but it proved her range as an actress and cemented her broad-based appeal.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Let the Music Play

My dad died days before the global lockdown. While I was trapped within four walls, music and dancing gave me reason to smile again.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

How to Make Your Own Luck

Luck isn’t easy to measure or study, but those who have managed to do it discovered it’s not the work of fate – it’s a skill you can cultivate and improve. So, how do you go about it?

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Local Flavour

Stocking up your pantry? These artisanal foods are guaranteed to ignite the senses of home chefs everywhere. Meet the foodies behind two of South Africa’s tastiest brands.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Comfort of Ritual

Rituals imbue our lives with depth and meaning. And in times of uncertainty, they are even more important because they create a sense of grounding.

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Get Your Shine Back!

When the last of the summer heat is over, it’s important to take time to reverse any hair damage caused by sun and sea water.

5 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Rise of the Personal Shopper

It’s not a new concept, but the number of people who make a living from sourcing goods on behalf of clients is on the rise. We talked to three personal shoppers to find out what it takes.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Back to the Wild

Imagine camping in the Little Karoo… a billion stars above you, the ancient desert beneath, the insistent flapping of your canvas tent in the cold night air. Then banish all the rustic images this conjures up – because Dwyka Tented Lodge will confound all your expectations.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

A Good (Mo) Hair Day

"Beauty Mokgwamme had other dreams, but circumstances took her exactly where she was meant to be."

3 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022
RELATED STORIES

Tarek and I Want Our Own Show

The Selling Sunset realtor and her HGTV star husband, Tarek El Moussa, are ready to take the reality TV world by storm

3 mins read
inTouch
May 16, 2022

OUR ABORTION STORIES

With abortion rights under attack, ELLE brought together five members of Congress perhaps most qualified to discuss the issue— because they’ve been there themselves.

10 mins read
ELLE
May 2022

Tell Them What They Want

What they really really want. Eavesdropping on today's private

2 mins read
Town & Country
May 2022

days of our lives

LOOKING FOR A NEW LOVE - Nancy tells Bonnie that Craig invited her to his wedding. She wants to honor their friendship but fears people will feel sorry for her. Bonnie thinks the solution is for Nancy to bring a hot date. After Bonnie sets up a dating profile for her, Nancy gets a positive response ... from Clyde. Nancy asks him to join her at her ex-husband’s wedding, but Clyde insists that Nancy is more than capable of doing this alone, and says that he’d rather have her all to himself on their first real date.

4 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
May 02, 2022

JACKIE COX ON DAYS RETURN

Jackie Cox, a New York-based drag performer who placed 5th on season 12 of RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE, won rave reviews for their impersonation of Lisa Rinna (ex-Billie, DAYS) while a contestant on the show, and was floored when it led to an invitation to appear alongside Rinna on Peacock's DAYS OF OUR LIVES: BEYOND SALEM last year.

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
April 25, 2022

Your Period Will Play Hide-and-Seek (And Other Truths About perimenopause)

Little-known fact: Menopause lasts for just 24 hours. It's the days, months, and even years leading up to it that can profoundly affect your mind and body. Not willing to quietly grimace and bear the changes, Gen X is bringing about a refreshing reframing of what this time in your life can be like. Our girlfriend's guide, with advice from women who have been there, will help you manage, because you've got options and a whole lot more life-including this time of life-to enjoy.

10+ mins read
The Oprah Magazine
Volume 2. No 2 - 2022

GO BIG & Call It Home!Queen of Versailles Reigns Again

The infamous Jackie Siegel and her husband, David, are making their return to Versailles!

1 min read
Life & Style US
April 11, 2022

GO BIG AND CALL IT HOME! Queen of Versailles Reigns'Again

The infamous Jackie Siegel and her husband, David, are making their return to Versailles!

1 min read
inTouch
April 11, 2022

Robert Wagner & Jill St. John : How Love Saved Us

After terrible tragedies, these longtime friends found lasting happiness as a married couple

4 mins read
Closer US
April 11, 2022

Bitcoin Billionaires & Crypto Kings

The cool young kings of cryptocurrency have emerged as ultra-luxury real estate’s new power players

4 mins read
Maxim
March - April 2022