Mega Watts

Mega Watts

British beauty Naomi Watts talks about her rise to fame and how to thrive in Hollywood. By Pete Carroll

Mulholland Drive, director David Lynch’s psychological thriller, was a breakthrough for you. And, it was recently voted best movie of the 21st century so far in a BBC poll of 177 film critics from 36 countries. How does this make you feel?

I was really moved by this and I’m really proud to have been in this film. It was a life-changing experience for me and continues to be the movie people relate me to. It was one of the greatest roles you can ever imagine – playing two characters within one role. Some people don’t get that luxury in their entire career – much less in one film – and the fact that it was shared with my mentor and dear friend, David, makes it even more meaningful.

How have things changed since Mulholland Drive?

Back then, I was struggling and trying to prove myself. Now, I have the luxury of people trusting me based on my performance in that film. I don’t think I’ve auditioned for anything since – people have just offered me roles. I haven’t lost touch with the struggle though, which allows me to feel grateful. Success came to me later, as opposed to in my twenties. In some ways, it makes sense; maybe I would have gone down the wrong path. I’m a very gullible person – people always tell me that.

In what way are you gullible?

People will tell me a story and I’ll go, ‘Oh really? That’s so great!’ and they’re like, ‘I’m just joking.’ I just believe whatever someone wants me to believe. Although I’m a little more suspicious these days, but I’m not jaded.

Do you think you could be an actress if you were jaded?

I think it would make work much harder. You have to be open to all kinds of ideas, so as not to limit yourself.

Can you say the life you have now is the life you imagined when you were cast in Mulholland Drive?

No, I mean, who would have thought? Of course, you hope to work with people who you admire, but I had no idea that it would go so well and be sustainable. I’ve been very lucky.


How do you feel about the dangers of fame?

I am grateful success came later to me, because I was more able to deal with it. Perhaps I would have made bad choices if things were handed to me on a silver platter in my early twenties. I knew what I liked and I was offered tons of movies that were blockbustery pay cheques, and I could have gone that way. Not to say that I’m against those but, if you’re not going to connect with the material and you’re purely doing it for the money, it will show in your performance.

Tell us about The Ring.

When I got offered The Ring, I was really sure that I shouldn’t do it, because it felt like a purely commercial movie. I remember having a blazing brawl with my agent at the time. Then I met with the director, Gore Verbinski, who was just so impressive in the way he talked about it, and it ended up being a massive hit and something I’m actually proud of.

More recently, you starred in the comedy While We’re Young, along with Ben Stiller. Would you like to do more comedy?

I want to, I do. Actually, I just finished a film called The Glass Castle, which is an adaptation of a memoir. It’s by no means a funny film. It’s a story where a lot of upsetting things happen, but I play a sort of comic-relief character. It’s harder to find good comedies, especially at my age. You have to be cute and girly for those classic romantic-comedy roles.

In 2016, you starred in The Bleeder, about the life of boxer Chuck Wepner, who inspired the character of Rocky Balboa. Do you understand the male fascination with boxing?

Yes, I have an older brother who was a kick-boxer for a while. I saw him fight a few times. It was really hard to watch; I really wanted to jump in the ring and pull the other guy off him. It’s really upsetting when you see someone you love get hit.


The sport has something in common with acting: there’s animation, turning points, suspense…

Yes, and there are battles. We don’t take any physical punches, but we take emotional ones and a lot of rejection, especially in the early days when you’re trying to get started. I took some punches, metaphorically speaking. [laughs]

You have two sons with Liev Schreiber, your ex and co-star in The Bleeder. When did they realise that their parents weren’t doing regular office jobs?

They figured that out early on. They were in Thailand when I was shooting The Impossible. They didn’t know what it was, but I was very afraid of them coming on to the set, because I was covered in wounds. So I had them come with me one day and help put the chocolate powder all over me, paint me with ‘blood’, to show them it wasn’t real. In The Glass Castle, there were lots of children and they thought it was really fun. They were saying, ‘We want to be actors.’

Text: Pete Carroll/The Interview People; Photography: Gallo/GettyImages


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