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The Action-Thriller That Saved Natalie Portman's Failing Career

Natalie Portman was at a strange point in her career in 2005. The actress had gotten awards notice for smaller films like "Garden State" and "Closer," including a Golden Globe win for the latter performance. But the three "Star Wars" prequels in which she played Padmé Amidala — despite strong box office returns – received widespread criticism for the storytelling and the cast's wooden performances (via IndieWire). 

Portman had the advantage of being known for her early work as a talented actress in indie movies, so the damage that the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy did to her career wasn't as extreme as the impact on other cast members like poor Hayden Christensen. With the third film, "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith," released in 2005, the main question about Portman's acting future was whether she could do more big-budget movies or would be forced to stick to the dramas she excelled in. 

The film that Portman released soon after "Revenge of the Sith," however, was a mid-budget comic book adaptation that showcased her acting talent to an action audience and proved the actress capable of leading a successful multiplex thriller. This is the action film that overcame the "Star Wars" backlash and launched the second phase of Portman's career.

V For Vendetta was Portman's big-budget comeback

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, "V For Vendetta" follows V (Hugo Weaving), a masked terrorist intent on destroying the fascist British government by any means necessary. When V saves Evey (Portman) — a working-class woman with a complicated past — from the secret police, she becomes caught up in V's violent quest to make England take power back from the totalitarian state.

Directed by James McTeigue and written by the Wachowski siblings, "V For Vendetta" attracted controversy when Alan Moore denounced the adaptation for taking serious liberties with the story. But the film won over fans in theaters, even morphing into a symbol of political protest over the years as activists began to wear V's iconic Guy Fawkes mask during civil unrest and to signify membership in the hacking group Anonymous (via The Week).

For Portman, the film showcased her ability to "shed that level of vanity" as a performer to play Evey, while also revealing her true star power (via Today). Thanks to the success of "V For Vendetta," the actress went on to star in several big-budget films, including the "Thor" movies, "Your Highness," and "Annihilation," among others.

You can currently watch "V For Vendetta" on HBO Max.