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Natalie Portman is growing through her roles

The 28-year-old actress is choosing parts with an eye on how they'll affect her life. 'I want to be a woman on screen because I want to be a woman in my life. I don't want to be a little girl,' she says.

October 15, 2009|Rebecca Ascher-Walsh REPORTING FROM NEW YORK

Indeed, Nair last met up with her "New York" star last summer in Uganda, where Portman was traveling for FINCA and where the director lives half the year. "Natalie is a student of the world, and you sense that on-screen," Nair says. "She has an empathy and an openness that imbue her characters."

And on the film front, in addition to her new production company, Handsomecharlie Films, she's slowly edging up to the possibility of directing something longer than a short.

"Working with Mira in New York, I was so thrilled to watch a female director, and you couldn't ask for a better model than her," she says. "For me, directing isn't a backup plan, because I really love it. At the end of the day, it is your product, which you don't get when you're acting. Even good performances are pieced together by good directors. You give plenty of bad takes, and they put it together in the editing room."

As for when she might take on that particular challenge, "I don't love saying I'm going to do something before I do it because I feel like that's a formula for hearing, 'You never did what you said you were going to,' " she says, "but I really love directing." And while she admits to some fear of stepping behind the camera and out of her comfort zone, "that's intrinsic to everything you do as a creative person. You're constantly putting yourself up there to be trashed. If I thought about it too much, I'd just be crippled. I'd rather create."

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