Darren Aronofsky: [Perfect Blue] The overhead shot of Nina in the bathtub is an exact replica of a shot in the Japanese anime thriller Perfect Blue (1997). Years before, when making Requiem for a Dream (2000), Darren Aronofsky bought the remake rights to Perfect Blue just to use that one sequence for a scene of Marion (Jennifer Connelly) in a bathtub. Black Swan itself contains numerous similarities, both in narrative and style, to Perfect Blue, though Aronofsky has denied that it was an influence.
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Darren Aronofsky told journalist Kim Masters in a radio interview (KCRW's "The Business" broadcast February 14, 2011) that Natalie Portman not only trained for a year as a dancer to prepare for the role, but paid for the the training out of her own pocket until the film found investors. Aronofsky attributed the film's getting made at all to Portman's dedication and enthusiasm.
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Natalie Portman revealed that director Darren Aronofsky would subtly try to pit her and Mila Kunis against each other during filming in an attempt to increase the on-screen tension between their characters. This included keeping the two actresses separated during filming and sending each of them intimidating text messages about each others performance that day. However, according to Kunis, this backfired; because they were already good friends before filming, whenever they would get wind that the other one was doing really well, they would respond in congratulatory support, not rivalry.
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In an interview with Charlie Rose, Natalie Portman stated that one of the most difficult challenges of making the film - aside from training and dancing - was modifying her voice. She stated that before working with Darren Aronofsky, directors had constantly criticized what they perceived to be the childish quality of her voice, and encouraged her to work with vocal coaches to make it sound deeper and more adult. The role of Nina required Portman to regress backwards and make her voice more child-like. She felt that doing so took her back to a point she worked hard to leave behind.
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Mila Kunis was brought into the project after co-star Natalie Portman suggested her to director Darren Aronofsky. Kunis had a video chat with Aronofsky via Skype and got the role without officially auditioning.
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Natalie Portman's body and dance double, Sarah Lane, made a public statement shortly before the DVD/Blu-Ray release in March 2011, claiming that the film's producers asked her not to conduct interviews until after the awards season so Natalie Portman would receive most of the dancing credibility. A promotional video released about the special effects used in the film was also altered so it didn't include aspects of how Lane's face was digitally replaced with Portman's during complicated dance moves Lane was brought in to perform. Choreographer (and Portman's fiancé) Benjamin Millepied counteracted Lane's comments: "It was so believable, it was fantastic, that beautiful movement quality. There are articles now talking about her dance double [Sarah Lane] that are making it sound like she did a lot of the work, but really she just did the footwork, the fouettés, and one diagonal phrase in the studio. Honestly, 85% of that movie is Natalie." Director Darren Aronofsky also debunked Lane's claims: "Here is the reality. I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. One hundred and eleven are Natalie Portman untouched. Twenty-eight are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math, that's 80% Natalie Portman."
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Natalie Portman lost 20 pounds to look more like a ballerina.
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Natalie Portman met her future husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, on the set of this film. Portman herself pointed out the irony that his character in the film scoffs when asked if he'd have sex with Nina, and joked that obviously he was a good actor.
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Out of all the award nominations the film received the only category sweep was Natalie Portman winning every Best Actress category, including Golden Globe and Academy Award, in which she was nominated.
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The script took around ten years to make it to the screen.
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The soundtrack, composed by Clint Mansell is a variation on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet, but played backwards and in a distorted manner.
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The budget on this film was so tight that when Natalie Portman had a rib dislocated during a lift and called the producer for help, she was told that the production could not afford a medic. Portman stated that if they needed to cut items from the budget they could take away her trailer to hire a medic. The next day her trailer was gone. Portman also had to receive physical therapy during filming and one of her sessions was incorporated into the final cut. Choreographer Benjamin Millepied brought in Michelle Rodriguez Nouel, an actual physical therapist, and director Darren Aronofsky told Portman to stay in character during the appointment. Subsequent dance sequences were filmed by having Portman lifted from her arm pits rather than her sides to avoid repeating the injury. It took Portman six weeks to fully recover.
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Both Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman have praised choreographer Benjamin Millepied for altering the choreography enough to allow them to do most of their own dancing and to help them appear like professionals.
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Although the film was never marketed as such, Darren Aronofsky has always maintained that this film was meant to be a psychological horror film.
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Natalie Portman began ballet training before receiving an official script on pure faith that the film would be made.
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The method which Nina uses to "break in" her pointe shoes are all common - ripping the sole apart, re-stitching the ribbons, lighting the end ribbons to prevent fraying, spraying the toe-box, and using glass and rosin to grate the bottom to gain traction.
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After practicing with a ballet instructor for three months, five hours a day, seven days a week, Mila Kunis learned how to dance en pointe. She had casually practiced ballet as a child.
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Director Darren Aronofsky originally envisioned telling this story as part of the plot of The Wrestler (2008) and was actually developing a project that was about a love affair between a ballet dancer and a wrestler, but he realized pretty quickly that taking two worlds like wrestling and ballet was much too much for one movie.
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At the beginning of the film, Nina is seen eating half a grapefruit and a soft-boiled egg, which is part of the extensive diet of Sara Goldfarb in Darren Aronofsky's drug-fueled drama, Requiem for a Dream (2000).
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Natalie Portman hit her head during the filming of one scene, sustaining a bad concussion that required an MRI.
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Darren Aronofsky had originally hoped for a budget of about $28-30 million. The budget eventually raised for the film was about $13 million.
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Days before the DVD/Blu-Ray release, director Darren Aronofsky counteracted accusations made by dancer Sarah Lane, in which she claimed Natalie Portman got credit for her dancing in the film, stating "I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor. Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don't want anyone to think that's not her they are watching. It is." Co-star Mila Kunis also counteracted Lane's comments, "Lane wasn't used for everything. It was more like a safety net. If Natalie wasn't able to do something, you'd have a safety net. The same thing that I had - I had a double as a safety net. We all did. No one ever denied it."
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Vincent Cassel has compared his character to George Balanchine, who co-founded the New York City Ballet. The actor said Balanchine was "a control freak, a true artist using sexuality to direct his dancers."
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Nina's (Natalie Portman) harmful, compulsive skin picking is an actual impulse control disorder known to the medical profession as Dermatillomania, and may also be referred to as DMT or derm, Neurotic Excoriation, or CSP (Compulsive Skin Picking or Chronic Skin Picking).
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The letters that were written on the mirror, when Nina calls her mother to tell her that she has been accepted for the role, were written by Natalie Portman herself.
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Darren Aronofsky first approached Natalie Portman about making a film set in the dance world in 2001 when Portman was 20 years old. Aronofsky envisioned it as a film loosely based on "The Double: A Petersburg Poem" by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
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Lily is always wearing black outfits, as well as black underwear to signify her as Nina's opposite, or "Black Swan."
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Nina's cell-phone ring-tone is the "Theme of the Black Swan."
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Is one of six horror films to be nominated an Oscar for best picture. The other five are The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Sixth Sense (1999) and Get Out (2017).
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In the practice scene near the beginning of the film (when Thomas taps some of the girls on the shoulder), all of the characters except Nina are wearing either all black, or some combination of black, gray, and/or white. Nina is the only character wearing all white.
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Sarah Lane, Natalie Portman's dance double, appears in 23 seconds of the opening dance scene. The final 85 seconds of the sequence is unaltered performance by Portman. The 23 seconds in which Lane appears is all en pointe footwork. The dance with Rothbart and the en pointe exit was done by Portman.
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Other dancers seen in the film are members of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company. The movie was shot in Purchase, NY, during January 2010, when the company was not performing elsewhere.
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The scenes involving Nina with her mother Erica were the last scenes filmed.
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The role of the "Jaded Piano Player," the ballet rehearsal pianist who, most memorably, tells Nina that she has been working too hard and she should take a break, is played by John Epperson, a performer who is perhaps better known for his drag persona, Lypsinka. Epperson really did work as a rehearsal pianist for the American Ballet Theatre during the late 1970s and early 1980s, accompanying the rehearsals of such ballet luminaries as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, and Gelsey Kirkland.
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Winona Ryder, who plays the former leading ballerina, only went to one ballet lesson as a child. She never returned, as she thought her teacher was really mean.
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According to a radio interview on "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," Natalie Portman recommended her friend Mila Kunis for the role of Lily after learning that Kunis had previously had some experience as a dancer.
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Meryl Streep was considered to play Erica, Nina's mother.
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When Nina is in the bathtub, there is a mosaic of a swan in the background.
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Natalie Portman stated that, after the experience she had working with director Darren Aronofsky, she would gladly work with him again at any time.
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The film's editor, Andrew Weisblum, has said that while editing the film he had a difficult time telling Natalie Portman and Sarah Lane apart.
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Portman's character's name 'Nina' is also the name of the ballerina in an Abba song 'Nina, pretty ballerina' which coincidentally, outlines the tale of a girl who seems ordinary but has a secret.
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When shooting Black Swan, Natalie Portman sustained many injuries, which caused delays to the production. The most common injury was her left toe, which had to be restrapped while the cast and crew waited. This kind of delay was so frequent it was called a "Natalie Portman's Left Toe Delay" which was later shortened to...Portmantoe.
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The ballet director's last name, "Leroy," is similar to the French "le roi" for "the king" - significant in light of Nina's identification with her role as an enchanted princess in love with a prince.
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Parker Posey was strongly considered to play Beth Macintyre, but Darren Aronofsky eventually decided to cast Winona Ryder for the role.
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Summer Glau auditioned for, and won, a role in the film as a supporting character though her character was written out of the story during pre-production.
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Nina's name in the original screenplay was Alexandria.
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The film began as a screenplay by Andres Heinz called "The Understudy" and took place in the world of New York theater. Darren Aronofsky liked the script, but suggested it be changed to ballet. John J. McLaughlin wrote the new script, which was subsequently rewritten by Mark Heyman.
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Black feathers growing out of Nina's scratch marks on her upper back is strong influenced by The Fly (1986), a scene of which shows insect-like hairs growing out of scrapes on Seth Brundle's (Jeff Goldblum) upper back.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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After this film. Natalie Portman refused to do more nude scenes. Albeit nervous, she was not necessarily opposed to baring it all on camera for this film, especially after appearing nude in the short film Hotel Chivalier. But after her naked scenes ended up all over adult websites, the actress felt much more opinionated on the issue. She told Elle magazine: "It really depressed me that half of every review on the film was about [my scenes.] It made me think I shouldn't have done it. I'm not prudish about [it.] I think it's beautiful in films, and sex is such a big part of life. My issue is that I feel it takes something away from what you're doing when the focus is put on the wrong thing." Since then, Portman has vowed to avoid appearing naked in movies. "My picture ended up on porn sites, and that's the dilemma. I just don't want to do something that will end up as a screen grab on a porn site."
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The production considered setting the film in France and filming in Budapest but the idea was dropped for creative and budgetary reasons.
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Opening film at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.
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In the long years before production began, former Darren Aronofsky leading ladies Rachel Weisz (The Fountain (2006)) and Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream (2000), later reunited with Aronofsky for Noah (2014)) were considered to play Beth MacIntyre.
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The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year not to be nominated in any of the writing categories.
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Mark Margolis appeared in an "under-five" role as a favor to Darren Aronofsky. His dialogue was cut from the film.
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The second film in which Natalie Portman plays a dancer. She played stripper Alice Ayres in the 2004 film, Closer (2004).
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Though Natalie Portman does mostly all of her own dancing, ABT professional ballerina Sarah Lane acted as her body and dance double. These doubles shots involve complex en pointe work (fouettes, pique turns) and virtually all camera shots that focus below the waist on Nina's legs and feet.
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Ksenia Solo who plays Veronica/Little Swan was also a ballet dancer and she has an injury to her back which prevents her from doing ballet.
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Natalie Portman drew on her ballet training from ages 4-13 for the role. She resumed ballet training a year before principal filming began. She trained with Mary Helen Bowers (formerly of the New York City Ballet) and the regimen included 15 minutes of toe exercises (for her to be en pointe for dance scenes), substantial muscle toning and swimming a mile a day. However, Portman has acknowledged having dance doubles (unnamed) in some interviews. Professional ballerinas Sarah Lane and Kimberly Prosa were the dance doubles for Portman. The special effects team also digitally placed her head on Sarah Lane's body in several dance scenes. Lane did most of the heavy tricks, while Prosa did the rest of the dance shots that were needed. According to both Prosa and Lane in separate interviews, Portman's dance scenes in full body shots were actually the dance doubles. Prosa and Lane also said Portman was filmed dancing from the waist up, showing only face and arms, while the rest of her body dancing were that of the dance doubles.
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The Fly (1986) is speculated as an influence behind the movie particularly the hallucination scenes in which Nina mentally begins her transformation from girl to swan which she has a rash on her back. Her body gets painfully contorted and her body changes shape. She pulls pointy black feathers out of the rash on her back. Her legs snap backwards like a bird's legs. Her toes stick together becoming webbed like swan's feet and big black feathers cover her arms and her arms transform into swan wings.
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Two actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are in this film: Natalie Portman who plays Jane Foster in Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
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Despite Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey playing characters that are professional ballet dancers, they don't have a single dance scene in the film.
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Natalie Portman, albeit nervous, was not necessarily opposed to baring it all on camera. But after her naked scenes ended up all over adult websites, the actress felt much more opinionated on the issue: "It really depressed me that half of every review on the film was about [my scenes.] It made me think I shouldn't have done it. I'm not prudish about [it.] I think it's beautiful in films, and sex is such a big part of life. My issue is that I feel it takes something away from what you're doing when the focus is put on the wrong thing." Since then, Portman has vowed to avoid appearing naked in movies. "My picture ended up on porn sites, and that's the dilemma. I just don't want to do something that will end up as a screen grab on a porn site," she told Elle magazine.
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Stanley B. Herman: Reprising his role as Uncle Hank from Requiem for a Dream (2000) in a subway scene.
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Mark Margolis: The Darren Aronofsky regular appears in the gala scene where Nina is announced as the Swan Queen.
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Marcia Jean Kurtz: Actress with roles in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (2000) and The Wrestler (2008), appears briefly as the ballet company's costumer.
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While the crew was applying blood to the stab wound on Natalie Portman, she commented to director Darren Aronofsky that she was uncomfortable with the placement of the blood on her tights because it looked like a period. Aronofsky told her he intentionally placed the blood where it was to symbolize Nina becoming a woman. As a result, Portman has stated that she doesn't believe Nina dies at the end of the film. She sees it more as Nina having to kill the little girl in order to mature into a woman.
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There is a mirror or a reflective surface in nearly every shot of the film. The only noticeable place where there isn't one is when Nina is on stage, during the film's climax, performing the Black Swan, when her 'dark side' has taken over.
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During the dance club sequence most of the people surrounding Nina are either visions of herself, Lily, Thomas, or other aspects of the Swan Lake ballet. The only spot you can clearly see flashes of Nina as the Black Swan on the dance floor is when the voices chanting Nina's name are playing. Although most of them are nearly impossible to pinpoint while watching the film at full speed, there are over 1,000 manipulated images in the 45-second scene.
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Nina's clothes changes color throughout the film. In the beginning of the film, she's seen wearing pink and white which, in particular, symbolizes innocence, purity, and virtue. After the formal party, she wears gray and other neutral colors which symbolizes dullness, detachment, and indecision. Then, when she and Lilly go out, she starts wearing black which symbolizes maturity, rebellion, and darkness. And when her hallucinations get worse like the scene where she's being fitted for her swan costume, she's seen wearing white, gray, and black which symbolizes her confusion and loss of reality.
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Natalie Portman has stated it was "really uncomfortable" to film the sexually explicit scenes, but she believed the scenes were necessary to show Nina's discovery of self pleasure as part of her evolution.
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An online rumor broke out shortly after the film's release claiming that Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis took shots of tequila before shooting their lesbian sex scene and were drunk on screen. Kunis denied the rumors shortly after saying, "I don't think we could have done that scene if we were intoxicated."
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Despite prominent billing as part of the cast, Winona Ryder has a total of 4 minutes of screentime throughout the entire film.
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When Nina completes her performance as the Black Swan and poses onstage, the wide shot shows her from the audience's perspective without her imagined feathers; however, the feathers are still visible in her two shadows.
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When Nina (Natalie Portman) calls her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), to tell her she got the part of the swan queen, Hershey was unable to be on set that day to interact with Portman over the phone. Director Darren Aronofsky stepped in to be on the other end of the phone call to help Portman get through the scene.
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There has been an online fan-theory that Nina may have been sexually abused by her mother - Erica. There are two scenes from Nina's point of view that hint at this theory: When Erica is in Nina's bedroom she gives a suspicious smirk when saying "Are you ready?" and it is revealed Lilly never actually slept over in the Lesbian scene, and Lilly calling Nina "sweet girl" - the same words Erica uses - and Lily's face transforming into herself and her mother causing her to freak out for a second.
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Although it is left for viewers to decide if Nina lives or died and her fate left unanswered. The final shot of Nina's face dissolving in a bright white light hints that Nina may had succumbed to her stab wound and died.
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Although Nina is the protagonist who becomes the antagonist Thomas Leroy is considered to be the real antagonist of the film and believed to be the real villain of the story. Leroy is sexually abusive and manipulative to Nina pushing her physically and emotionally to succeed at all costs. He attacks her with aggressive and dismissive remarks about her sexuality, yet becomes obsessed with her, taking advantage by abusing her verbally and sexually and creating a high stress level in the hope that one day she'll snap.
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The final shot of the film which Nina is lying on the ground bleeding and her face dissolves in a bright white light is heavily influenced by the final shot of 2004's Layer Cake (2004), which (SPOILERS for Layer Cake) XXX ('Daniel Craig') is seen lying on the ground bleeding, when he is shot and he dissolves in a bright white light.
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One of the inspirations for this film was obviously "The Red Shoes". Not only do both films tell of a ballerina getting so into a part that the plot of the ballet comes to life, as well as both leading actresses dying at the end, but both feature the ballerina engaging in a pas de deux with her love interest--who also choreographed for the film. Robert Helpmann appeared in "The Red Shoes" and choreographed as well. And Benjamin Millepied also did such for "Black Swan".
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In Winona Ryder's final scene in the movie, where she is in the hospital with metal bars in her legs following her catastrophic accident and Nina returns the items she stole from Beth's room, Beth appears to go insane and stab herself graphically in the face right in front of Nina. Following another hallucination of seeing her face imposed on someone (Beth), Nina winds up outside of the hospital holding a bloody nail file, which is what Beth used to stab herself with. While it is possible that the scene mostly played out that way in the film's universe, it is also possible, that due to Nina's increasing unhinged mental state, she killed Beth.
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