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Meet The Manager: Molly Mahoney
The story of "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium” has at its heart the toy store's creative and not-quite-ready for the real world manager, Molly Mahoney. Once a musical prodigy, Molly loves the marvels and merriment of her present job but she's frustrated by the fact that she has never finished anything she's ever started. She has whole lot of promising beginnings, a few enticing middles, and absolutely no ends. And now that Mr. Magorium wants to leave his one-in-a-million Emporium in her hands, she fears she doesn't quite have the heroic, not to mention magical, nature to take up his baton. 

To bring Molly Mahoney to realistic life -- in all her joy, charm and insecurity that hides tons of potential – in the middle of a delightful fantasy, the filmmakers knew they would need a very special actor. And they were all in complete agreement as to who the number one choice for the role would be in a perfect world where dreams come true: Natalie Portman. The Oscar®-nominated actress has risen to the forefront of her generation's leading ladies with roles that are as diverse as they are captivating, from the fantasy world of George Lucas's "Star Wars” to the adult complexities of Mike Nichols' screen adaptation of "Closer.”

To Zach Helm's utter delight and amazement, Portman jumped in right away with a yes. "The very first person I ever mentioned that I would love to have play Mahoney was Natalie Portman,” muses Helm. "If I remember correctly, we sent the script to her on a Thursday and by the following Monday she said she would do it. We were ecstatic. A really big piece of our puzzle was in place.”

"Zach sent the script to me wrapped up like a present with a big red ribbon around the box,” recalls Portman. "Inside was the most beautiful letter asking me to read the script. Well, I had already read ‘Stranger Than Fiction' which I really loved so I sat down and read ‘Mr. Magorium' and fell in love with his writing all over again. Zach has a very specific and optimistic perspective of the world which is so lovely to see, especially in this age of cynicism. I was really moved by that and I thought Mr. Magorium's way of looking at the world would be such a bright, uplifting thing to bring into people's lives.”

The entire production was inspired by Portman's commitment to the role. "Natalie became the linchpin for the entire movie,” comments James Garavente. "She so perfectly embodies that transformation between childhood and adulthood that Mahoney is experiencing and she lifted the character off the page and made her an entirely real person, which is everything we hoped for.” 

Portman was able to relate to Mahoney's one big obstacle to becoming a Magorium-like, creative impresario in her own right – a simple lack of seeing her own internal magic. "It's one of the great and common problems in life, not having the courage in yourself to say this is my voice, this is my life, this is my creation, and being afraid to really put yourself out there with confidence and truly enter adulthood,” she remarks. 

As for Mr. Magorium's role in Mahoney's life, Portman explains: "I think he's both a mentor and a playmate for her. She realizes that his ability to live through his imagination is a whole way of life, a choice. In that way, he's a model for what she would like to be – but his decision to depart sort of forces her at long last to move into that world herself.” 

Portman's collaboration with Dustin Hoffman brought their relationship bursting to full-color life, sparking an authentic sense of awe and excitement in Portman that transfers onto the screen. "Dustin is much like his character in that every single second he's using the utmost of his creative powers,” Portman observes. "To see someone squeezing that much joy and effort out of every second was pretty inspiring.” 

Equally fun for Portman was working so close

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