What really happened between Natalie Portman and Moby
They share plenty of common ground when it comes to animal rights and environmental awareness, but Moby and Natalie Portman still make a pretty odd couple. The electronica musician (born Richard Melville Hall) is 14 years older than Portman for one thing, yet according to his 2019 memoir Then It Fell Apart, he dated the Hollywood actress for a spell.
The three-time Grammy-nominee released a number of choice snippets from his tell-all book ahead of its release to drum up interest, and it certainly had the desired effect. His claim that he and Portman were once an item spread like wildfire and it didn’t take long for the Oscar-winner to chime in with her version of events, which — rather awkwardly — differed drastically from Moby’s. The Black Swan star flat-out denied that she went there with him and even called the older man “inappropriate” and “creepy” during a staunch denial (via Harper’s Bazaar).
Moby stuck to his guns, however, and a game of he-said-she-said ensued. We’ve put the pieces together and worked out what really happened between Natalie Portman and Moby.
She asked to meet him after a gig
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The majority of people had forgotten all about Moby when he dropped his 1999 album Play, which he fully expected to be his last. “When Play was released, I kind of thought my career was over,” he told Rolling Stone on the 10-year anniversary of the record, which unexpectedly sold over 10 million copies. “All of a sudden movie stars started coming to my concerts and I started getting invited to fancy parties,” the musician recalled. “It was a really odd phenomenon.” One of the movie stars that Moby became acquainted with after his career got a second-wind was Natalie Portman.
According to Moby’s memoir Then It Fell Apart, he had just finished a show in Austin, Texas when he was told that Hollywood starlet Natalie Portman was outside and wanted to see him. The way Moby tells it in his book, what followed was an eye-gazing encounter. “I walked to the door, sure that this was a misunderstanding or a joke, but there was Natalie Portman, patiently waiting,” he wrote. “She gazed up at me with black eyes and said, ‘Hi.’ … As if this were normal, as if we knew each other, as if movie stars randomly showed up after my shows.”
Friendly or flirty?
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When Natalie Portman sat down with Harper’s Bazaar a few weeks after Moby’s claims about her started grabbing headlines, she gave her version of the night she went backstage to see the singer. The actress confirmed that she did indeed visit his dressing room, but she insisted that the atmosphere in there was friendly, not flirty. “I was a fan and went to one of his shows when I had just graduated,” she said. “When we met after the show, he said, ‘Let’s be friends’. He was on tour and I was working, shooting a film, so we only hung out a handful of times before I realized that this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate.”
The account Moby gave of their backstage meeting in Then It Fell Apart painted Portman as the one who was initially interested in him, not the other way around. The musician questioned why an attractive young woman like Portman would be into a guy like him — but he’s adamant it happened. “I was a bald binge drinker who lived in an apartment that smelled like mildew and old bricks, and Natalie Portman was a beautiful movie star,” he wrote. “But here she was in my dressing room, flirting with me.”
Moby was wrong about her age
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In his memoir, Moby claimed that Natalie Portman was 20 years old when he met her at that show in Texas. Internet sleuths soon figured out that this wasn’t true, however. Their first encounter took place in 1999 while Moby was touring in support of his hit album, Play, but the Austin date on that tour was mid-August, just two months after the actress turned 18. “I was surprised to hear that he characterized the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school,” Portman told Harper’s Bazaar. “He said I was 20; I definitely wasn’t. I was a teenager. I had just turned 18.”
Portman’s age apparently became something of a stumbling block for the pair in the weeks that followed their first meeting, prohibiting them from hanging out together as much as they’d have liked. After pulling news archives from the time, Stuff.co.nz was able to confirm that the actress was denied access to an event Moby was playing because she was under the legal drinking age. “Portman reportedly caused a stir at Boston’s Roxy Nightclub when she tried to get into a party headlined by Moby,” the New Zealand outlet shared. “Several outlets, including the Boston Globe, reported that Moby refused to go on if Portman was not let in despite being underage.”
Was the VMAs their first date?
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Natalie Portman admitted that she and Moby hung out after that first backstage meeting, but what did they get up to? According to Moby, he took Portman to the MTV Video Music Awards shortly after they met. He was house DJ, and Portman was apparently his guest of honor. According to the New York Post, the two held hands on the red carpet in full view of the paparazzi. Describing the evening in his memoir, Moby said that he felt like he’d “swallowed a distillery full of joy,” despite the fact that he’d only had two drinks. “I found that my own burgeoning fame was like warm amber, encasing me with a sense of worth I’d never felt before.”
Moby was apparently head over heels at the time (according to Stuff.co.nz’s research he called Portman during a live show and got the crowd to say hello to her voicemail), but his version of events doesn’t quite add up. In his memoir, the musician states that their VMA date took place just one week after they met at his show, which took place in mid-August. MTV held the Video Music Awards on September 9 that year, so (just like he was with Portman’s age) he’s a little off there. The actress made no mention of the VMAs during her Harper’s Bazaar interview, and any existing red carpet pics of the pair holding hands have yet to surface.
Did sparks fly between them at Harvard?
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According to Moby, his relationship with Natalie Portman hit another level during his visit to Harvard. The young actress had just started her degree in psychology, and she was a little nervous about attending such a prestigious place of study as a celebrity. “When I got to Harvard, just after the release of Star Wars: Episode I, I feared people would assume I had gotten in just for being famous and not worthy of the intellectual rigour here,” she told Harvard students when she returned to deliver the 2015 commencement speech (via Business Insider). “And they would not have been far from the truth.”
The way Moby told it, he was on hand to ease Portman’s worries at times. In Then It Fell Apart, the musician recalled visiting Portman at the famous university in great detail, claiming that they “held hands and wandered around” the scenic campus together, “kissing under the centuries-old oak trees.” They apparently hung out until midnight, when — according to Moby — Portman took him back to her dorm room. “We lay down next to each other on her small bed,” he wrote. “After she fell asleep, I carefully extracted myself from her arms and took a taxi back to my hotel.”
Dating Luke Skywalker’s mom
The story blew up when Moby released his memoir, but this wasn’t the first time the musician had discussed his supposed relationship with Natalie Portman. In an interview with Spin over a decade before penning Then It Fell Apart, he discussed their alleged relationship as if it were common knowledge. “Do you think your romance with Natalie Portman helped make nerds into sex symbols?” Moby was asked.
In his answer, the techno star said that his “very brief affair” with Portman may have helped make nerdy-types more desirable. “I guess in some people’s eyes, [nerds] might be mildly sexy — and, as a nerd, I’m certainly happy to enjoy some of the effects of that,” he admitted. “But as far as the very brief affair I had with Natalie, it’s made me the target of a lot of nerd wrath — you can’t date Luke Skywalker’s mom and not have them hate your guts.”
According to Moby, Portman (who made her debut as Padmé Amidala in 1999’s Episode I – The Phantom Menace) arranged for him to go on a night out with the Star Wars prequel cast in Australia, where Episode II and Episode III were filmed. In his book, Moby recalled bumping into the notoriously short-tempered Russell Crowe, who allegedly pinned him up against a wall and shouted at him no apparent reason. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” cast member Ewan McGregor told Moby, the latter claimed (per Metro). “He yells at everyone.”
She met somebody else
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As Natalie Portman explained in her Harper’s Bazaar interview, she ended whatever it was she had with Moby when she started to feel like it was becoming inappropriate. It’s easy to assume that this came as a blow to the older singer, but Moby claimed in his memoir that he was actually relieved when he got the news, because the thought of being with someone like Portman was giving him major anxiety. “Nothing triggered my panic attacks more than getting close to a woman I cared about,” he wrote. Luckily for Moby, Portman apparently saved him the trouble of having to explain himself and dumped him — on the phone, no less — for someone else.
“For a few weeks I had tried to be Natalie’s boyfriend, but it hadn’t worked out,” he wrote (via news.com.au). “I thought that I was going to have to tell her that my panic was too egregious for me to be in a real relationship, but one night on the phone she informed me that she’d met somebody else. I was relieved that I’d never have to tell her how damaged I was.” According to MTV, Portman began dating her Star Wars co-star Hayden Christensen in 2000, though Moby didn’t identify who that “somebody else” was.
Moby doubles down in a subtly shady Instagram post
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After Natalie Portman spoke out and denied that she’d ever been Moby’s girlfriend, the singer stood his ground in an Instagram post, insisting everything he’d revealed about them in Then It Fell Apart was true. The way in which Moby went about it seemed to rub a lot of people up the wrong way, however. Dismissing Portman’s Harper’s Bazaar interview as a “gossip piece,” he said that he was shocked when he read that Portman was claiming they never dated. “This confused me, as we did, in fact, date,” the Porcelain singer said (via NBC). “And after briefly dating in 1999 we remained friends for years.”
In the now-deleted post, Moby said that he had a heap of respect for Portman because of her “intelligence and activism,” but he was unable to explain why her recollection of their relationship differed so greatly from him own. “To be honest, I can’t figure out why she would actively misrepresent the truth about our (albeit brief) involvement,” he continued. “The story as laid out in my book Then It Fell Apart is accurate, with lots of corroborating photo evidence.”
Moby provides his ‘photographic evidence’
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Perhaps the most intriguing part of Moby’s Instagram rebuttal was that he claimed to have photographic evidence of his relationship with Natalie Portman. At first, the singer’s stance seemed to be that you would have to buy his book if you wanted to see these images, but before long he was sharing them online to prove that he wasn’t making the whole thing up. In a second since-deleted Instagram post (via HuffPost), Moby reasserted that he’d had “brief, innocent, and consensual romantic involvement” with the actress. “But she’s denying that we ever dated, even though in the past she’s publicly discussed our involvement, and there’s ample photographic evidence that we briefly dated and then were friends,” he added. “It hurts to be lied about, especially as I’ve always respected her, and I thought we were friends.”
Moby shared three pictures of himself and Portman together, but the internet wasn’t buying it. “The energy between the two seems to be pretty platonic to us, so we’re not sure whose account this actually supports,” Perez Hilton said. Others were quick to point out that being in a photograph with someone is not proof of a romantic history, The Mary Sue concluded. Before long, Moby’s bizarre logic had been turned into a meme — Twitter users (comedian Rob Delaney included) started posting pictures of themselves with celebrities and claiming that they’d dated.
He’s been getting ‘threats of violence’
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The moment Moby responded to the Harper’s Bazaar interview by belittling it as a “gossip piece,” the internet took Natalie Portman’s side. As the story snowballed, the singer was subjected to more and more criticism online, and according to him, that quickly escalated to “anonymous threats of violence” from people he’d never met. “So what should I do?” he wrote in another since-deleted Instagram post (via HuffPost). “What do you do when people believe lies and accusations and not actual photographs and evidence? I want to take the high road, but I honestly don’t know what to do. It’s one thing to be lied about, and entirely another when someone’s lies result in physical threats from complete strangers.”
Moby claimed that the severe backlash was affecting both his business and his mental health. In an attempt to diffuse the situation, he posted yet another message to Instagram, this one titled “dear trolls.” In it, the musician said that he was “flattered by the attention” he had been getting (it can only help boost sales of his book, after all), but reminded trolls that “hating a stranger based on egregiously limited information” is a waste of their time.
Falling for Portman is apparently easy to do
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Moby ended his now-deleted first Instagram post on the matter by suggesting that Natalie Portman might be lying about their time together because she’s embarrassed by it. “I completely respect Natalie’s possible regret in dating me (to be fair, I would probably regret dating me, too), but it doesn’t alter the actual facts of our brief romantic history,” he wrote. The Guardian‘s Barbara Ellen didn’t appreciate Moby’s self-deprecating humor nor the “increasing sullenness” of his posts, but she did concede that it was possible the whole thing may have been a “misunderstanding” of sorts. Could Moby have drastically misread Portman’s signals? He wouldn’t be the first man to do so, if rumors regarding Jonathan Safran Foer’s divorce are to be believed.
Portman turned vegan after reading Foer’s book Eating Animals, and the pair decided to produce a documentary based on it. They had reportedly exchanged emails for years at that point, but when they started working on the film together, those emails got more personal — at least in Foer’s mind. The novelist is said to have left his wife for Portman without asking if the actress even felt the same way, which, of course, she didn’t. “Portman, who is married to her Black Swan co-star Benjamin Millepied, had no interest in ending her own marriage to run away with Foer,” Vox reported. “When he finally approached her, the story goes, she told him so.”
Moby apologizes for being ‘truly inconsiderate’
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With public opinion very much against him, Moby bit the bullet and apologized in yet another lengthy Instagram post. He didn’t take back his claims that he and Portman dated, but he did address the uncomfortable age gap. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then It Fell Apart are very valid,” he wrote. “I accept that given the dynamic of our almost 14 year age difference I absolutely should’ve acted more responsibly and respectfully when Natalie and I first met almost 20 years ago.”
The musician said that it was “truly inconsiderate” to not let Portman know her name was going to be included in his book. “I have a lot of admiration for Natalie, for her intelligence, creativity, and animal rights activism, and I hate that I might have caused her and her family distress,” he said. “So for that I apologize, to Natalie, as well as the other people I wrote about in Then It Fell Apart without telling them beforehand.”
Moby only apologized for including Portman in the book, however, not for what he said about her. So who’s lying? It’s possible that both parties believe they told the truth. “Perhaps [Moby] had different ideas to Portman about what dating entailed,” The Guardian‘s Barbara Ellen suggested, though she wasn’t entirely convinced. One thing’s for sure — whatever they had meant way more to Moby.