The Decoy Queen


Who's Who? The Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman Debate

One of the first mistakes a newcomer to Handmaidenology makes is they think that Natalie Portman played the part of the decoy Sabé as well as Amidala and Padmé. This is definitely not the case. This page will help to explain and clarify some of the misconceptions that have been around since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace debuted.


Actress Keira Knightley, who played Sabé, looks very much like Natalie Portman. While this helped to enhance the decoy plot, it did confuse some viewers.

Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman


Not only do Keira and Natalie resemble each other, but they also sounded alike in the film as well. While both their voices were lowered in pitch during post-production, there are still subtle differences that can be heard. Keira's accent appears to sound more authentically British than Natalie's "early-Leia"-like affectations. Another of Keira's films, Coming Home, was filmed around the same time as Episode I. Her voice in that film, while normal in pitch, has the same tone as Sabé.

Compare the Queen's "I will not condone a course of action..." to Sabé's now famous "I will not cooperate!"


There was further confusion during and just after Episode I's premiere. While Natalie never wore the black feathered Escape from Naboo dress during the film, she wore it in all the promotional shots released to the media. Keira was the only one to wear it during the movie.



Then, behind the scenes footage was released in May showing someone other than Natalie being fitted for the Disco Ball Parade dress. That would be Keira, who never wore the dress in the film.

Keira during costume fitting
Keira during the costume fitting
Keira in the Disco Ball Dress


To make matters worse, Vogue Magazine did a fashion pictorial in May of 1999 for some of Queen Amidala's dresses. In these photos, it was neither Natalie nor Keira, but another model.

Throne Room Gown
Escape from Naboo Gown
Pre-Senate Gown
Disco Ball Parade Dress


Producer Rick McCallum did nothing to help our cause during on online chat with fans. Here's the text of the Lucasfilm chat from June 7, 1999:

ASKLucasfilm: Jedi-Al says: Rick, was it a separate actress that played the "fake" queen, when Natalie was Padme on screen? I didn't see her name in the credits.

RickMcCallum: No, it's Natalie that plays both parts.

Thanks a lot Rick!


The weeks after the film's release, the handmaidens gained more notice. Soon, the Royal Handmaiden Society was born and word began to spread about Keira. (Okay, the filmmakers may have helped us a little too.)

In a May 27, 1999 interview with the London Daily Variety, casting director Robin Gurland stated the following:

"One of the hardest roles to cast was that of Sabé, the handmaiden that fills in for the Queen when she is in hiding. Originally we were going to us a stand-in, but that was before we found a girl by the name of Keira Knightley. She was only fourteen at the time of principal photography, two years younger than Natalie Portman, but nevertheless the resemblance is striking. I wouldn't be surprised if she fools quite a few of the fans."


Not only did she confuse some of the fans, but family members as well! In the Star Wars Insider, Issue 47, Natalie Portman was asked about her role.

Some people seem to think Amidala and Padmé are clones of each other.

"No, no, no-it's the same person-it's the Queen in disguise!"

Was there any thought given to having you play both parts? It could have been done digitally.

"A lot of people just assume they did, because this is such a big special effects movie. But I think George really wanted to do two people, so that on repeat viewing you could go back and actually see where it is me and where it isn't me. Also, it more believable-you actually know that she's using a double. My mom, the first time she saw [Keira Knightley, who played the Queen's decoy, Sabé] in all the makeup, she thought it was me. She went up to her."



Keira Knightley is an amazing actress in her own rite and she deserves as much recognition as possible. There were no computer effects used. The handmaidens were not clones of the Queen. And Natalie did not, at any time, play the decoy.

For a scene by scene commentary on locating Sabé in Episode I, please visit our Episode I Galleries and the Handmaiden Identification Guide


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