Natalie Portman reflects on "Black Swan," urges Harvard grads to take risks

Natalie Portman smiles on stage before addressing the Class of 2015 during Harvard University's Class Day Exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 27, 2015.

REUTERS

Natalie Portman returned to her alma mater, Harvard University, on Wednesday, where she told graduates how she's learned that taking calculated risks can lead to life-changing rewards.

The actress, speaking at Harvard's Class Day, cited her work in "Black Swan" as an example of a time she didn't know her own limitations -- and it paid off.

Portman, who won an Oscar for her role in the 2010 film, said she might not have taken the role if she had known how "woefully unprepared" she was to pull off the movie's ballet moves.

"The point is, if I had known my own limitations, I never would have taken the risk," she said. "And the risk led to one of my greatest personal and professional achievements."

The 33-year-old actress also met her husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, on the set of the movie. The pair married in 2012 and have a son together, Aleph.

Portman, who graduated from Harvard in 2003 and starred in the most recent "Star Wars" movies, also cited another personal example: her first experience writing, directing and acting in a movie. The film, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

"Make use of the fact that you don't doubt yourself too much right now because, as we get older, we get more realistic," she told the graduating seniors. "Accept your lack of knowledge and use it as your asset."

"You can never be the best," she added. "The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self."

Portman's address was a highlight of Wednesday's events, which also included award presentations and student speeches. Harvard seniors receive their diplomas Thursday.

Harvard's tradition of inviting a guest speaker to address graduates the day before commencement began in 1968.

The first invited guest was civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. His wife, Coretta Scott King, delivered the speech after his assassination.

You can watch Portman's full speech below: