Playing a real-life fairytale figure isn't always a pathway to gold as Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts have discovered in recent years.

Yet Natalie Portman's portrayal of the widowed, grief-stricken yet remarkably composed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the upcoming film Jackie has the actor on the fast track to her second Oscar statuette.

The film is set in the days immediately following President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

Portman previously won the Best Actress Oscar in 2011 for Black Swan and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2005 for Closer.


The first full trailer for Jackie, which opens in New Zealand on January 12, mixes iconic images and moments (Jackie's pink pillbox hat, marching behind the funeral procession) with more intimate moments of shellshock and sorrow (Jackie finally removing her bloodstained stockings, with her children).

While Portman used extensive research to nail the First Lady's distinctive voice and walk, she has said "portraying how she felt takes imagination".

Portman has called the film much more of a "collage" than a straight-ahead biopic. The trailer gives just a taste of its experimental approach, including frequent close-ups that meant Portman spent much of the shoot with a lens only centimetres away from her face.

The drama focuses on the immediate aftermath of the JFK shooting, days in which Jackie attempts to both cope with the tragedy and protect and secure her husband's legacy.

IndieWirehas called Portman an "emotional superconductor" in the role; The Guardian "altogether astonishing"; and The Hollywood Reporter "never-better" and "incandescent".
Portman, who is expecting her second child, has spoken of her fear in tackling such an icon.

"It was definitely scary," the actor told MovieMaker Magazine. "I've never prided myself on any ability to mimic or imitate ... I was like, 'Oh no; I'm setting myself up for failure big time here!'."

She combated that fear with her research - "looking at every video I could find and reading every book I could find and listening to audiotapes of her interviews," she told Vanity Fair.

The 35-year-old emerged from the project with a new respect for the First Lady the public didn't know.

"The inner strength it took to be that composed to the world, [I see that as] as a gift to the world, because she understood how symbolic her reactions to all of these events would be while she was obviously crumbling inside."

LA-based awards analysis site has Portman listed as a leading Best Actress contender, along with Emma Stone for La La Land and Amy Adams for Arrival, in what is considered a highly competitive field this year.

The site's founder Sasha Stone says: "Natalie Portman as Jackie is a performance that needs to be seen to be believed."

Jackie won buzz and praise at the Cannes and Venice film festivals this year and opens in the US on December 2, before hitting New Zealand cinemas in January.