Portman wore a gown embroidered with the names of a number of high-profile female directors widely believed were snubbed by the Academy Awards this year.
On Facebook, McGowan said that she was “disgusted” by the gesture, accusing Portman of performative activism. She also suggested that Portman was “acting the part of someone who cares”, and referenced the fact that Portman has only been directed twice by women working on feature films.
In her own response, Portman agreed with McGowan that her protest should not be referred to as “brave”, writing: “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”
She did, however, defend her own history with female directors.
“It is true I’ve only made a few films with women,” Portman wrote. “In my long career, I’ve only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times – I’ve made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”
Portman has been attached to a number of films in recent years intended to be directed by women. As a producer, she fought for the hiring of Lynne Ramsay for her 2014 film Jane Got a Gun, only for Ramsay to leave the project shortly after filming began.
She was also attached to star in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, and had pushed for a female director on that project. The film was ultimately directed by Mimi Leder, with Felicity Jones in the starring role.
It is additionally widely believed that the departure of director Patty Jenkins from 2013’s Thor: The Dark World led to a creative dispute between Marvel Studios and Portman, who had urged the studio to recruit a woman to direct the film. Jenkins, who later directed Wonder Woman, was replaced on the film by Alan Taylor.
“If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them,” Portman’s statement continued. “I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work.”
“After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level,” she added. “So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.”
McGowan has yet to respond to Portman’s statement.
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