Portman tells of the agony she endured to be a dancer

The actress Natalie Portman has revealed that the punishing schedule she endured for her new role as a ballerina in Black Swan left her fearing she was going to die.

The waif-like 29-year-old lost 20lb for the role, eating little more than carrots and almonds on a punishing diet, and spent eight hours a day in rehearsals. Ms Portman, who is hotly tipped for an Oscar for her portrayal of the desperately ambitious, perfectionist dancer, said: "There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die."

In a week when she announced she was pregnant and engaged to marry her Black Swan choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, she told Entertainment Weekly that the film left her physically and emotionally drained: "It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down."

The actress, who dislocated a rib during rehearsals, said recently: "All dancers are always dancing with an extreme injury. Not just a sore muscle, they're dancing on a sprained ankle or with a twisted neck or something.

"You'll see them do incredible stuff and then limp off stage, straight to a bucket of ice. Part of the art is hiding all the pain."

The film, which is due to open in Britain this month, has received mixed reviews from ballerinas. Racheal Prince, of Ballet British Columbia, said she thought Ms Portman's character was exaggerated. "She's anorexic, bulimic, crazy," the 26-year-old dancer said. "I'm sure every dancer struggles with little things here and there, but for one girl to struggle with every single problem out there, it just makes us look crazy."

British ballerina Gillian Murphy, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, also criticised the film for its "shocking and disturbing" portrayal of the ballet world.

Director Darren Aronofsky insisted he had had equally positive responses."So many dancers are incredibly relieved that there's finally a ballet movie that takes ballet as a serious art and not just as a place to have a love affair,'' he said, nevertheless admitting that the film was punishing to make.

"There was really no money for the film and we had to push, a lot of times. And I only found out recently that the person who suffered most from pushing was Natalie, just living on carrots and almonds.''

The ballet world has fought for years to counter accusations that it turns a blind eye to eating disorders.

The Royal Ballet School's nutrition policy 2010 insists that it monitors students to ensure that they maintain a healthy weight. A statement agreed by all schools operating under the Department for Education's Music and Dance Scheme reads: "It is known that, along with many athletes, dancers are at greater risk of developing eating disorders and associated medical problems, than the general population... All dance schools within the MDS scheme are committed to developing, training and nurturing healthy dancers. Schools endeavour to encourage positive attitudes towards weight control, healthy eating and body image at all times."

Black Swan, however, is likely to re-ignite the debate, drawing comparisons with the fashion industry.

Actors who made the weight

Russell Crowe

Crowe gained 40lb for his role in The Insider (1999), by eating cheeseburgers and cupcakes. He then shaped up to shoot Gladiator. By 2008, Crowe had gained 63lb for Body of Lies, then slimmed down in 2010 for Robin Hood.

Renee Zellweger

Zellweger's fluctuating weight dates from her starring roles in the Bridget Jones films, for which she gained nearly 30lb. She also attracted controversy for her thin appearance in roles such as Roxie Hartin Chicago.

Tom Hanks

For his role in Cast Away (2000) Hanks first gained weight to shoot the opening scenes, then spent a year away from the set losing 55lb and growing a flowing beard to appear as a castaway. His weight loss coach was mentioned in the film's credits.

Mickey Rourke

Rourke slimmed down from his usual 192lb for his professional boxing career in the early 1990s, reaching 167lb. After returning to acting in 1995, he gained 68lb for The Wrestler (2008), which was nominated for two Oscars.

Robert De Niro

De Niro gained 60lb for his role as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980). According to director Martin Scorsese, production of the film was put on hold for four months so De Niro could binge in Italy and France, increasing his weight from 145lb to 215lb.

Christian Bale

Adopting a crash diet of coffee and apples, Bale reduced himself to a skeletal 121lb for the 2004 psychological thriller The Machinist. Astonishingly, he then immediately bulked up to play Batman, reaching 230lb in six months.

Arts and Entertainment
Kristin Scott Thomas outside the Royal Opera House before the ceremony (Getty)
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?