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Natalie Portman in Annihilation

The Oscars red carpet is often the best time before the ceremony for actors and filmmakers to express themselves – whether it be through jaw-dropping fashion or comments to the press about their opinions on the films being recognized during that year. Ahead of Sunday’s telecast, Natalie Portman showed off a magnificent gold and black Dior gown and cape that had a lot to say. Rose McGowan was not impressed with her activism.

Natalie Portman’s Oscar look included the names of female directors who were not recognized by the Academy at the award show embroidered on her cape. For the ninth year of the past decade, not a single woman was nominated in the Best Director category despite Greta Gerwig’s Little Woman being among the nominees for Best Picture and during a year where Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood and Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim critically impressed. Check out Portman’s dress:

The Black Swan Oscar-winner was praised for her fashion statement on Sunday, but not by Grindhouse actress and activist Rose McGowan. She took to Facebook to talk about how she found Natalie Portman’s advocacy “deeply offensive” to those who actually “do the work.” In her words:

Natalie, you have worked with two female directors in your very long career- one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director- you. What is it with actresses of your ilk? You ‘A-listers’ could change the world if you’d take a stand instead of being the problem. Yes, you, Natalie. You are the problem. Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem.

Natalie Portman famously called out the lack of female directors at the 2018 Golden Globes when she said “and here are all the male nominees” while presenting the award. This Oscar look continues Portman’s support of female filmmakers, but Rose McGowan thinks she is a fraud. Throughout her 25 years in the business, Portman has only worked with two female directors – one of which being herself.

The Annihilation actress also has her own production company called Handsomecharlie Films, but it has not championed any women directors, again except for Portman for herself. Rose McGowan told Natalie Portman to “stop pretending” to represent the cause and “hang up her activist cloak.”

Following Rose McGowan’s Tuesday comments, Portman has now responded with a statement to BBC News. She said:

It is true I've only made a few films with women. 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 ghost history. Female films have been incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed. If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them. 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. 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.

As Natalie Portman shed light on, the problem is it’s just really difficult to have a project made with a woman at the helm. While more female directors are starting to find themselves in mainstream projects, the actress has experienced a lot of pushback in her attempts. But from the outside looking in, it looks as though Portman isn’t trying.

The exchange between Rose McGowan and Natalie Portman continues an ongoing conversation about diversity in cinema that has been a massive topic throughout awards season. The Oscars did leave things on a positive note considering Parasite won Best Picture, becoming the first foreign-language film to take home the prize, among all the other winners.

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