`Phantom Menace' stars take new fame in stride

May 18, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

If past experience is any indication, the stars of "The Phantom Menace" are in for a pretty wild ride, what with the wide exposure, the devoted fans and the ceaselessly scrutinized "Star Wars" mythology.

Certainly, the stars of the first three films have remained pop-culture icons, the centers of a devoted fan base that tracks their every movements.

Natalie Portman, who plays Queen Amidala (and is one of only three actors signed for the next two films) and Pernilla August, who plays Anakin Skywalker's mother, Shmi, know their lives may be in for a bit of a change. But neither seems overly concerned.

"There are a lot of issues you have to think about carefully before you jump into something like this," says Portman, 17. "It throws you into the limelight, and it's a scary thing to do with your life, because you lose a lot of your privacy with a decision like this.

"I've been in films since I was 13," she adds, "so [fame] is not brand new. But it's definitely expanded."

August, until now best known to movie audiences for roles in several Ingmar Bergman films, knows her popularity will skyrocket. But living in Sweden (where "Menace" won't even open until August) should insulate her a bit.

"I'm trying to take it very cool. I'm living in the countryside in Sweden with my three kids. I haven't even got a computer. I feel quite relaxed about it.

"I'm glad I'm 40," she adds, "and I'm glad I have my kids and I'm from Stockholm. I have my base. This is more like a bonus for me."

For Portman, committing to "Star Wars" has made her keep some things about her life secret. Like where she'll be attending college in September.

"I have decided, but I'm not telling," she says with a shy laugh. "I'm just not talking about it right now. `Star Wars' stuff is all over the place, and I don't want people stalking me."

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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