The stars and director of “Black Swan” talk about training, choreography, and, yes, the lesbian sex scene

Natalie Portman danced as a kid — starting at age 12 — and always wanted her love for dancing to intersect with her other passion: acting. Her dream is realized Dec. 3 when Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky‘s deeply dark and psychologically thrilling take on Swan Lake, arrives in theaters.

During a recent press stop to promote the independent film that’s already generating best picture — and best actress — Oscar buzz, Portman and Aronofsky were joined by cast members including Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, screenwriter Mark Heyman and choreographer Benjamin Millepied at L.A.’s famed Pantages Theatre and touched on everything from the rigorous training the actresses went through to prepare for the film and, yes, the lesbian sex scene.

For Portman, playing Nina, the White Swan who turns to Kunis’ Lily for help perfecting the evil Black Swan, was a dream role. "I always wanted to do a film relating to dance," she said. "So when Darren had this incredible idea, it was not just relating to the dance world but also this really, really complicated character: it was two characters, really."

"The story very much became about the journey for someone who’s a White Swan and how they become a Black Swan," Heyman noted. "Mila’s character is almost like a spirit guide in terms of taking someone down that path."

Aronofsky, who helmed last year’s critical favorite The Wrestler, noted that Black Swan at its core is "just the retelling of Swan Lake."

"It definitely shows the challenges and the darkness and the reality of how hard it is to be a ballet dancer," he said, noting that he interviewed ballet dancers before diving into the project. "But I think it also represents the beauty of the art and the transcendence that’s possible within the art  that’s all in the retelling of Swan Lake. The dancers that we met and talked with are like, ‘Finally we have a real movie about ballet.’ "

"So many dancers are incredibly relieved that there’s finally a ballet movie that takes ballet as a serious art and not a place to have a love affair," he continued. "If you actually look at ballet, the ballets themselves are incredibly dark and daunting."

For Portman, her preparations to play the Swan Queen were daunting. The actress trained two hours a day for six months — just to ensure she wouldn’t get hurt before the ballet training actually started. As the shoot neared, she upped training to five hours a day, including swimming a mile a day, toning and then three hours of ballet class per day.

"Two months before (filming began) we had the choreography (for the movie) for eight hours a day," she said. "The physical discipline of it really helped for the emotional side of the character because you get a sense of the dancer’s lifestyle of only working out.

"You know it’s a ballet dancer’s life when you don’t drink, you don’t go out with your friends and you don’t have much food. You are constantly putting your body through extreme pain," said Portman, who added that wearing point shoes was a new experience that felt "very medieval."

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