Natalie Portman and Jessica Simpson. Picture: Bang Showbiz/AP

Natalie Portman is "sorry for any hurt" she may have caused when she was "confused" as a teenager when she saw Jessica Simpson wearing a bikini and claiming she was a virgin.

The 37-year-old actress made the comments in an interview with USA Today earlier this week when she said she has struggled with the contrast seen in the music industry and what it was trying to tell its audience.

She said: "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. Like, I don't know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl."

And after Jessica herself clapped back at the actress on Twitter and urged her to "not shame other women", the 'Vox Lux' actress has responded to apologise for the way her comment came across.

Natalie posted in Jessica's Instagram comments section: "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. 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. I have nothing but respect for your talent and your voice that you use to encourage and empower women all over the globe."

On social media, 38-year-old Jessica had said she was "disappointed" by Natalie's comments, insisted being confident in her own skin is "not synonymous with having sex".

In a lengthy note, 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 honour 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 that they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want. The power lies within us as 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."