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9 Reasons Why
Natalie Portman is
Our Summer Fun Cover Girl

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1 Because she's knocking herself out to make your summer more fun. She's playing Nina in Mike Nichols's free Shakespeare in the Park production of The Seagull. And she'll be out there every night at the Delacorte holding her own against the likes of Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Christopher Walken. Not to mention Chekhov. (Performances start July 24, Tuesday through Sunday, at 8 p.m.; 212-861-papp for info.)

2 Because 2001 is her New York summer homecoming. "Summers have been my main time to work because of school" -- Portman, 20, has been acting for almost exactly half her life -- "so I actually haven't been in New York for the summer since I was like 12. Being back here is so exciting."

3 Because she's a principal in the George Lucas-controlled summer-fun cartel. By the summer of 2005, Portman will have appeared in three Star Wars films (including next summer's Star Wars: Episode II) as Padmé Naberrie/Queen Amidala. All hail.

4 Because she doesn't do crud. Portman once said she'd never appear in a "Jennifer Love Hewitt-type" movie.

5 Because she gets the simple pleasure of summer in our city. "I've lived on Long Island since I was 9. We used to come in to the city several times a week while I was growing up -- we'd see a lot of theater, do a lot of walking around and hanging out in the park, stuff like birthday parties in the park, which were so fun. Just, you know, anything outdoors in New York is amazing."

6 Because New Yorkers never bother her for autographs. "I'm very short," she says, laughing, "so I guess people just don't see me."

7Because she's tough. "In ten years," says Ted Demme (who directed her in Beautiful Girls), "she's going to run the entire world, and I want to be one of her assistants."

8 Because her idea of summer fun is hanging out in the library (seriously). "I think the New York Public Library is so, so amazing. It's literally the coolest place -- it's a good shelter from the sun -- and it's the most beautiful building. I just went there the other day and it was really, really fun."

9 Because, well, look at the picture. Is there any wonder why Harpers & Queen magazine called her "the new Audrey Hepburn"?

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