Film & TV

Scene Studies: Physical Gesture

Natalie Portman

Lesson time 06:51 min

Natalie shares three performances by actors who have inspired her, breaking down thow they use physical movement to reveal character in surprising ways.

Natalie Portman
Teaches Acting
Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman shares the techniques at the heart of her acting process—and teaches you how to tackle your next role.
Get All-Access

Make every role extraordinary

Natalie Portman began acting professionally at 12 and won an Oscar before she turned 30. As a self-taught actor, she uses personal techniques to create compelling, complex characters. In her first-ever acting class, Natalie shows how empathy is at the core of every great performance, how to bring real-life details into every role, and how to build your own creative process. Get ready for your breakout performance.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I loved her repeated advice to play nice with the other children -- and that acting is really about empathy. That's a cool viewpoint. She's a kind person. Appreciated all of her tips.

I've completed a few master classes and this was the best. Natalie shares so much information, very detailed and she is so clearly passionate about what she does, but wanting to really benefit others also. Very inspiring!

I feel more confident, and understanding of the artistry of acting. I learned a lot from someone I really look up to. I aspire to be able to apply what I have picked up from this class.

It's Good to realize that even the best at something have gone trough a path of lifechanging moments that led them where they are now. It give's us prospective of our own lifechanging moments.


Sara R.

I think we could all learn from this, even the most experienced actor still has things he or she needs to evolve from. I will certainly remember this episode of Natalie Portman’s MasterClass.


Wow. This really shows that actors can bring something more to a scene than what stands in a script.

tobias T.

I recently played a detective who was shot in the hip and the physicality that I carried through the movie really helped inform the audience and it really connected to the audience. It was really nice to see the added layer that turned out to be subtle but very powerful in my performance. It resonated.

Allison F.

I love this because it is a teacher not only for acting but for life as well. The small moments, the caught gestures, the moments of surprise are what make life so rich and beautiful. However, in terms of theatre (and, for me, writing) keeping in mind that these seemingly spontaneous or subtle moments can also inform my writing, giving clues to actors or readers. In terms of performance, it is really wonderful to hear Natalie share the times when gifted actors expose their creativity.

A fellow student

The way a character moves or how in certain moments he or she can use their hands or whole body to convey an emotion complemenst the performance as a whole

Michèl N.

I`m wondering how an actor would feel if those little details, like "watching herself in the window and arranging her hair" are actually written down in a screenplay? Would it annoy anyone who is reading it because of the micro-managing? Would it limit the freedom of an actor, or is it suitable to ignite a spark to find a more creative way of expressing something?

Kristine K.

This is where my study of comedy improv comes handy...when things go wrong I am so used to not having a script and improvising I use that when I am in a scripted scene. Meryl Streep knew how to steal that scene. ;-)


This class Natalie brings out a Very important point. Things to do when the character is walking with another character who is speaking. Things like handling some prop on the set or pouring a fluid or as the two characters are strolling down they come to a flowery bush. Ont of the characters in the scene picks a flower from the bush.

Gisela S.

Great class with amazing examples. I have never thought about those in between moments like that. Definitely something new I will start implementing into my work

Stanley K.

I had one of those beautiful moments. It was in a documentary I was in, about the War in Afghanistan. The director pulled me aside and asked how I liked the previous scene he shot with Taliban dying. I said I thought it went well. He said it was my turn! I was not really sure how I was going to do. Anyways, he told what to do and I was supposed stay on the ground after explosion died, but I pulled my head when he said something ,before he said cut. I thought we going to do the scene again, but he said not everyone dies the same way.... ( I sprained my ankle the night before that too, playing soccer. Somehow it worked with the scenes, too. I did not have try not to limp after near death scene anymore) I went on in the documentary and became the main bad guy, only survivor. So go to work the next day no matter what. It might be exactly what is needed if you suffer physically or mentally... My character killed off all the U.S. Special Forces team and only Taliban left in documentary, too... all in all, I was told it was one of the worst defeats our troops had... pretty upsetting.... It was filmed for our troops as a reverse confidence booster, to enrage our troops my director said. He wanted calm me down, he could tell it upset me.... The way he did that really made it so I was not nervous, being in the lead role. I read that the Brie Larson was not told she was Captain Marvel, somewhere. That makes it easy on the actor it seems not knowing... at least for me. I had to piece together who I was, as well, like she explains to Jimmy Fallon.