Natalie Portman has a well-earned reputation for being smart, professional and gracious, but even she can sometimes get caught in the tabloids' line of fire. Case in point: In its latest issue, Star magazine accuses her of sharing a "passionate embrace" with married Oscar winner Sean Penn, a claim the actress, via her reps, dismisses as completely untrue.
The tab alleges that Portman, 27, and Penn, 48, who both served on the Cannes Film Festival jury last year, dined together on March 17 at the bar of the Sunset Tower Hotel and were later spotted "making out."
But Portman's rep says Star's hanky-panky story is a bunch of hooey, and assures us that the pair's bread-breaking was strictly above-board.
"We flatly deny the story, other than the fact that she joined Sean and several others briefly during their dinner," states the spokesperson. "The rest of the story is patently untrue."
According to the New York Post, there were three other people at the table that night, including "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black -- not exactly the makings of a romantic evening.
Besides, word is that Portman left soon after the meal to hit the "I Love You, Man" premiere with her pal -- and partner in comedic PSA crime -- Rashida Jones.
Meanwhile, it turns out Penn, who reconciled with wife-of-a-dozen-years Robin Wright Penn a year ago, isn't the only thespian being linked to Portman.
The Chicago Sun-Times says that Ryan Gosling has been pitching woo in her direction since they met recently at a Los Angeles nightclub.
The actor has supposedly been sending an "intrigued" Natalie a steady stream of "very poetic" text messages, along with first editions of books he thinks she'd enjoy.
"Natalie always has been attracted to actors and other men who are intellectuals," a mole maintains to the paper, "and Ryan qualifies."
But don't start swooning over "The Notebook" star's seemingly impressive courting skills just yet. A Portman confidant tells us that the two have never even met.