Did you miss Natalie Portman? I did. I always do. Remember the teen who charmed David Letterman and went on to become one of his favourite guests? She’s still the same person, except now she loves Broad City

Natalie is at TIFF for the North American premiere of her film A Tale of Love and Darkness. It’s a movie she co-wrote, directed and stars in, and the red carpet is tonight. But she arrived in Toronto a day early for the TIFF Soiree, a fundraiser for the festival and a retrospective on her career.

The Dior Couture dress was even more ornate (and chainmaily) in person, but what stood out most was what looks to be Natalie’s new attitude. This isn’t the same star who has been putting her foot in her mouth with out-of-context quotes about how shorts aren’t pants or how her Oscar is a “false idol”. Last night she was humble and very, very exposed. Not only that, she seems grateful.

When asked about A Tale of Love and Darkness on the TIFF Soiree carpet, Natalie talked about how it’s way more than just a passion project or a story about the dawn of Israel. If people think it sucks, or is too heavy-handed, she’s the only one at fault. She’s the one in charge, and it was her creative vision. But, she’s owning it, especially after the film got mixed (at best) reviews out of Cannes. Her strategy in Toronto re: selling the movie appears to involve just being herself.

Later, when my colleague and etalk host Danielle Graham wished Natalie a “Happy (early) New Year” (the Jewish New Year / Rosh Hashanah starts on Sunday night), she chuckled, said thank you and let out a restrained version of her famous “Natalie Portman laugh.”

On-stage at the TIFF Soiree, Natalie to me seemed modest but not meek. My girl Sarah Gadon introduced her, TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey and (not-so-surprise guest) Darren Aronofsky who directed Natalie in Black Swan. Black Swan premiered at TIFF five years ago, but A Tale of Love and Darkness is another work of love for her. Natalie spoke out about Hollywood’s gender divide, and how women directors earn so much respect in Israel and are always treated as equals.

When reviewing her career, Natalie mentioned she gets tons of love for Where the Heart Is “on the street” and spoke fondly about her cinematic choices. She shared our (delayed) sense of embarrassment about Garden State too, but still loves it. Darren Aronofsky thinks she should run for President, and she would, if she was born in the U.S.. Maybe.

Natalie’s ready to stand up for what she thinks is important… even when it’s not popular.

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