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Natalie Portman reflects on ‘Léon: The Professional’ calling it ‘cringey’

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Natalie Portman has reflected on her debut role in Léon: The Professional, referring to the film as “cringey”.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress spoke about the 1994 Luc Bensson-directed film where she starred as Mathilda Lando, a lonely 12-year-old who befriends Léon, her neighbour and Italian hitman.

“It’s a movie that’s still beloved, and people come up to me about it more than almost anything I’ve ever made,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “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. So, yes, it’s complicated for me.”

American actress Natalie Portman and French actor Jean Reno on the set of the film
American actress Natalie Portman and French actor Jean Reno on the set of the film “Leon”, directed by Luc Besson. (Photo by Patrick CAMBOULIVE/Sygma via Getty Images)

The film was Portman’s acting debut, and she was cast when she was 11 years old. Over recent years, however, the film received some criticism for its undertones suggesting a sexual relationship.

In 2018, Besson was accused of raping Dutch-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy over the course of two years. Several other woman described “inappropriate sexual behaviour” by the director but did not press charges. He denied all of the claims and the case was dismissed in 2021 after an investigation.

Portman went on to address the allegations against Besson in the interview.

When asked about her reaction to the French film director’s sexual abuse allegations, the actress responded: “It’s devastating.” She also reflected on her time working with him sharing: “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.”

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