I should start by saying that I’m a huge Natalie Portman fan (her real last name is Hershlag, something I’ve known since I was 14). As a teenager I was completely in love with her, and not because of her great acting, but because my biggest crush in school resembled her. Needless to say, I had posters of Portman in my room (it started with a Queen Amidala poster). I also started watching all her movies just because I thought she was the prettiest girl in the planet (still think so). But when I first saw her, I was really disappointed, and not because she didn’t look like her pictures, but because she hated me (she hates paparazzi).
After working on Jessica Simpson in San Diego my agency had me working at the airport a lot. My co-worker Ivan quit the agency to join a different one and left the company car behind, which was given to me. It was a charcoal 2008 GTI (Volkswagen) which I named “Carl”. I went to the airport virtually every day to find celebrities. The same week I saw Natalie I also saw Bobby Brown, Daisy Fuentes, Jessica Biel, Jim Belushi, Lauren Bacall, Mario Lopez, Mariska Hargitay, Patrick Dempsey, Spencer and Heidi Montag (ew), Ty Pennington, William Shatner and Zooey Deschanel. If you know what you are doing you can see a lot of celebrities at LAX in a single day, but this post belongs to my dearest Natalie.
On June 17th, 2008 my agency sent me to the airport not to take pictures of Natalie Portman, but to follow her home. It was going to be my first time following a celebrity ever and they sent three of us for the job. The team consisted of a pretty diverse group Malak (from Iraq), Hamo (from Armenia), and myself (American/Mexican). Malak was the one to be inside the airport while Hamo and myself were going to do the follow (in different cars). We communicated by Nextel to coordinate and Malak was to tell us the car and what part of the airport they were at. I was on the lower level for arrivals and Hamo was on the upper level for depatures (since celebrities can go either way). The flight arrived and it was time for action.
I parked near terminal 5 while Hamo was on the upper level circling around and Malak looked for the limousine. Suddenly I saw Natalie’s old boyfriend, Devendra Banhart, waiting by the escalator on the lower level. I radioed in my partners and told them I spotted the boyfriend waiting for her. They weren’t fans of Natalie and had no idea she was dating Devendra so they ignored my call. Then I saw her coming down the escalator carrying Whiz (her puppy). Devendra went to hug and kiss her and I tried taking pictures from my car. I called Malak and told him he was missing all the pictures and got mad at him for not spotting her. He came rushing down the escalator with his flash camera on hand and started taking pictures of them in their faces, obviously they didn’t like this. That’s when they split and Devendra went to get his car to pick her up curbside while she waited for her bags on the carousel. I really wanted to take her picture, but once she sees the photographers she shy’s away and makes it really difficult to get her picture. I gave up and went back to my car before they gave me a parking violation and i was ready to do the task that was at hand, follow them.
Devendra parked in-front of my car, he drove a 500D Turbo-Diesel Mercedes Benz. I was behind him ready for the follow and Hamo was circling around the airport to get behind me. Natalie got inside the car and there were never any good pictures of them together but the chase started. Devendra knew we were following so he didn’t make it easy to keep up, especially for my first time following and I didn’t know Los Angeles that well (or at all). I followed them outside the airport up Lincoln Blvd and soon Hamo caught up with us and he took the lead. Devendra suddenly turned into a CVS parking lot, crossed it full speed and went on the other direction, I was too slow to follow but Hamo wasn’t and kept behind them. For the next 20 minutes I was lost in Los Angeles trying to catch up with the follow, Devendra took no highways and went straight through Venice Blvd. I kept getting pressured from Hamo to get behind them and help with the follow that I even ran a couple of red lights, but it was no use, they were far ahead from me and Hamo had it under control. He finished the rest of the follow all the way to Los Feliz and I returned to the office to deliver my pictures and then went back to work to LAX.
Here are the pictures of that day:
The next few times I saw Natalie Portman it was weird and she always avoided the camera. Though all I wanted to tell her is how big of a fan I was and how much I respected her, I never got the chance. One time I even saw her crying because we were there taking her pictures, it was weird and I felt horrible, but I’m sorry to say that it is the price of fame. Most actors that have been working since they were very young hate the paparazzi, and Natalie is not the exception. Though in reality a lot of the actors are really respectful to photographers and treat us really nice, obviously the media never shows this side of the job.
I took this picture on May 24th, 2010. I knew she was going to shy away from the camera, so I crossed the street and hid behind a post while my friend tried to take pictures of her inside. She hid in the corner and faced the window not knowing I was hiding in the other side. When she saw me she got really angry and never looked up again. This was the cleanest shot that we got. Again, all I wanted to tell her is that I was sorry, but that the people want to see pictures of her and if it wasn’t me, it would be someone else.
This was one of the first pictures ever of her pregnant on January 4th, 2011. Her bodyguard was waiting for her to arrive, she saw me but didn’t stress out like she did before and allowed me to take a couple clean pictures. When she got in her car I thanked her but I really doubt she listened to me. This picture got printed in several magazines and even made it to newspapers around the world (I saw it print on the New York Post). I also saw it a lot on the web, here’s a sample of what it looked like in JustJared and People Magazine:
The pictures above were taken on February 7th, 2011. She was very pregnant and the media was going crazy for pictures of her. I believe she finally understood that it was really difficult to avoid the paparazzi and just made her way through the airport without caring if we were there or not (A lot of photographers were there and she was followed from her home).
The last time I saw her was on February 24th, 2011 when she was still pregnant. Here she is arriving with her dog and Whiz her puppy. Ok, that was mean, but I’m really jealous of Benjamin Millepied for marrying the girl of my dreams. He was never nice to photographers either, but why would he be, he is not famous, just married a famous person that also hates photographers.
I doubt Natalie will ever read this, but if she does I want her to know that I’m sorry if I ever cause her any stress and that since I was a young kid I listened to a song by a band called Ozma, in which they sing about being in love with her as well (song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81G4_9Ddg8A ). I always wondered if she heard that song.