Natalie Portman broke out in a big way as the precocious star of the film Léon: The Professional, when she was just 13-years-old. But looking back on it now, she finds the cult classic "cringey."
The Oscar-winner told The Hollywood Reporter that while she's grateful for the film, she sees it in a new light after several women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against its director, Luc Besson, in 2018.
“It’s devastating,” Portman told the outlet. “I really didn’t know. I was a kid working. I was a kid. But I don’t want to say anything that would invalidate anyone’s experience.”
Six different women accused Besson of assault and harassment in 2018, including a former assistant who said she was "blackmailed" into a sexual relationship. When asked how she feels about The Professional now, Portman admitted: "It's complicated for me."
“It’s a movie that’s still beloved, and people come up to me about it more than almost anything I’ve ever made, and it gave me my career, but it is definitely, when you watch it now, it definitely has some cringey, to say the least, aspects to it,” she said.
Portman experienced her own slew of sexual harassment in the wake of The Professional's blockbuster success, and reflected back to that time at the 2018 Women's March in Los Angeles, noting when a local radio station began counting down the days to her 18th birthday.
“I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually I would feel unsafe and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort,” she said at the march.
The Professional followed Portman as a troubled adolescent who partners with a much older hitman after her family is murdered. The relationship portrayed in the film was reportedly inspired by a real-life relationship Besson had with a girl who was 15 years old, the legal age of consent in France.