Natalie Portman has apologised to Jessica Simpson for comments she made about a bikini photo shoot Simpson did when she was a teenager.

In an interview with USA Today for her new film Vox Lux, Portman spoke about how sexuality often influences the music industry and said she was "confused" by a photo of Simpson wearing a bikini for a magazine covershoot in which she spoke about being a virgin.

"I remember being a teenager, and there was Jessica Simpson on the cover of a magazine saying ‘I’m a virgin’ while wearing a bikini, and I was confused," Portman said.

"Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl."

On Wednesday, Simpson fired back at the comments on Instagram, posting a lengthy message in which she accused Portman of trying to "shame" her for her choices.

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She wrote: "I was disappointed this morning when I read that I 'confused' you by wearing a bikini in a published photo taken of me when I was still a virgin in 1999. As public figures, we both know our image is not totally in our control at all times, and that the industry we work in often tries to define us and box us in.

"However, I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then - and I believe now - that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body are not synonymous with having sex. I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex with whomever they want. The power lies within us individuals.

"I have made it my practice to not shame other women for their choices. In this era of Time's Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same." 

Shortly afterwards, Portman responded to Simpson’s Instagram post, thanking her for her statement and clarifying that she was confused by "the media’s mixed messages about how girls and women are supposed to behave."

"Thank you for your words. I completely agree with you that a woman should be allowed to dress however she likes and behave however she likes and not be judged", Portman wrote in a comment.

"I only meant to say I was confused - as a girl coming of age in the public eye around the same time by the media's mixed messages about how girls and women were supposed to behave.

"I didn’t mean to shame you and I’m sorry for any hurt my words may have caused," Portman added. "I have nothing but respect for your talent and your voice that you use to encourage and empower women all over the globe."