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The Natalie Portman Diaper Drama You Haven't Heard About

Most cinema fans know who Natalie Portman is and what she's most famous for. In 2011, she won the Oscar for best actress for her unnervingly convincing performance as a ballerina gone mad in the dark drama "Black Swan." Before that, she was toppling the British government in "V for Vendetta." And her 2022 appearance in "Thor: Love and Thunder" has thrust her back into the spotlight. But only her most diehard fans know that she once played an astronaut in a little-known indie film called "Lucy in the Sky."

The feature is based very loosely on a true story. Portman plays astronaut Lucy Cola, whose life starts to feel small and insignificant after she returns from her first mission in space. Cola then experiences a slow but worsening emotional downward spiral as her desperation to return to the cosmos increases.

Because the movie is based on a real-life incident, moviegoers who followed the stranger-than-fiction drama were looking forward to — and disappointed by — a specific detail that the movie chose to leave out. The controversy soon became known as "Diapergate" after the film's debut. And it eventually grew to be such a big issue that Portman herself felt the need to go on record and explain why it was strategically omitted from the plot.

Natalie Portman's stance on Diapergate helped shut down the controversy

The real-life incident which inspired the movie revolved around an astronaut named Lisa Nowak (via Biography). In 2007, Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando to confront the new girlfriend of her former lover. Police alleged that she had worn adult diapers to shorten her trip by avoiding bathroom stops. She and her attorney have vehemently denied the diaper allegations (according to TIME), but the public sank their teeth into that lurid detail and couldn't stop obsessing over it. It was the butt of every joke in the days and weeks that followed. She eventually pleaded guilty to burglary and misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Natalie Portman tried her best to clear the air and remind people that even if the diaper rumor had been confirmed, it wasn't quite as radical as it appeared on the surface. "It's part of an astronaut's life. They wear diapers the whole time because that's what you do in space," she explained to The Los Angeles Times. "It's not like it would be an unusual choice." 

Portman and the movie's director, Noah Hawley, were much more sympathetic toward Nowak than the general public. They were fascinated by her story and dedicated to bringing her emotional turmoil to life in an artistic manner. Hawley was particularly disgusted with the backlash, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "The film's goal is to rehumanize her and build empathy for her, to show you that she had an emotional and existential crisis, and that's part of becoming an adult." Unfortunately, it looks like some of the film's critics still have some growing up to do.