Naomi Watts, co-star of the "The Ring 2" Movie!
The English born and Australian raised Actress quickly reached hollywood stardom after playing a sexy lesbian scene in the 2001 movie "Mulholland Drive" and starring as "Rachel Keller" in the 2002 horror movie "The Ring." Naomi Watts was born in Shoreham, England, on September 28, 1968. After the unfortunate death of her father, Naomi and her family moved to Australia four years later, when she was 14 years old. The aspiring actress enrolled in acting school and began attending numerous auditions, where she met future best friend and major influence Nicole Kidman. With a lot diligence, Watts received a small role in For Love Alone in 1986. It may not have been a significant part, but it was a big step forward as Watts tried to follow in her mother's footsteps, an accomplished actress who also served as inspiration for Watts. At 18, Naomi decided to try her hand at modeling and was hired by an agency in Japan. After a year of struggles, she realized this sort of exposure was not what for her and returned home. Now working in the fashion industry -- behind the camera -- Watts was hired as an editor at Follow Me, a fashion magazine. The acting bug was too strong, however, and Watts landed roles in 1991's Flirting, with Nicole Kidman and Thandie Newton, and in an Australian miniseries alongside Russell Crowe. With the ultimate desire of being a star in Hollywood, Watts took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles. Bit roles in 1993's Matinee and 1995's Tank Girl gave her experience but not quite the boost she needed to become a recognizable face or name. Even after a few consecutive TV productions with CBS and parts in 1996's Children of the Corn IV, 1998's Dangerous Beauty and 1999's Strange Planet, a breakthrough performance had not yet been achieved. Only after a callback from Twin Peaks director David Lynch did Naomi finally see true success. Her strange double character in 2001's Mulholland Drive (which was originally intended to be a TV pilot, before becoming a feature film) was her first starring role in a popular movie (albeit not so mainstream) and, according to critics, complemented the rest of the movie beautifully. Acclaim went through the roof and with attention being turned toward the film with a Best Director Oscar nomination for director David Lynch, Watts began receiving long-deserved attention. Naomi Watts' career post-Mulholland Drive has skyrocketed, with starring roles in the film short Ellie Parker and the blockbuster thriller The Ring, which hit the No. 1 spot at the box-office in its opening weekend and has already made more than $80 million in four weeks of release. She can soon add The Kelly Gang, 21 Grams (with Benicio Del Toro and Sean Penn) and Le Divorce (with Kate Hudson) to her resume. With The Kelly Gang and fellow Aussie Heath Ledger by her side, it's clear that Naomi Watts has a bright Hollywood future ahead of her.
Her Quote: "I get offered some things without auditioning today, but back then they wouldn't even fax me the pages. I had to drive for hours into the Valley to pick up three bits of paper for some horrendous piece of shit, then go back the next day and line up for two hours to meet the casting director who would barely give me eye contact. It was humiliating."
Naomi Watts' Magic Circle
THE Ring holds a special place in moviegoers' minds. It was a Hollywood horror film that actually scared the hell out of people. The Ring also shares a special place in Australian Naomi Watts's heart. It was her first film to actually score big, both critically and commercially.
After struggling to break through for so long, turning the obscure thriller into a $315 million hit reflected very well on its star and its director, Gore Verbinski, who went on to Pirates Of The Caribbean. Watts admits Mulholland Dr., the David Lynch film for which she earned many awards but cruelly not an Oscar nomination, was her creative breakthrough.
But The Ring showed Hollywood she could headline a movie. And that Hollywood could still make horror movies.
"People say it freaked them out and all kinds of things, like it revamped the whole genre," Watts says. "The genre's always been there and it's never going to go away but it seemed to be in a lull or something.
You can see a lot of films that are influenced by it or are blatantly plagiaristic but I guess that's a form of flattery."
Watts played Rachel Keller, a mum who is haunted by a killer videotape that features a girl called Samara, who drowned in a well 25 years before. The story's claustrophobic, quiet telling worked wonderfully.
"The first one was really smart, it took its time," says Watts. "It trusted itself and it wasn't all about blood and guts and gore. It made the audience do a bit of the work."
And if the audience came, The Ring was set for a sequel. Three years after its release, Watts returns in The Ring 2, wherein her character has moved to a small American town to escape Samara. Unfortunately, the videotape follows her.
Watts was always committed to the sequel and Hideo Nakata's original Japanese films, Ringu and Ringu 2, provided the basis for one.
It proved wise: the sequel opened at the top of the North American box office last weekend.
But Watts contends she wasn't going to do it by numbers. "The character had to continue that emotional journey and I wanted to see the darkness that she was going to have to live with and the guilt. How do you recover from that?"
"Then ultimately there's certain things you have to deliver, giving the audience certain nods they need and want, and you don't want to just placate or repeat, you want to do something new ... "
The Ring 2 is a more emotional journey, she adds, focusing more on the mother and son's relationship - and setting up for an aching conclusion. "Pretty dark, isn't it?" Watts laughs.
Despite Nakata's legendary status among horror fans, the director wasn't asked to direct The Ring or its sequel.
The Ring 2 was handed to little-known commercials director Noam Murro, although due to "creative differences", Murro was dumped from the film only weeks before shooting.
Fortunately, Nakata happened to be in Los Angeles preparing for another directing gig.
"He knows the genre so well," Watts says of her director. "If you think about it, every film he's ever directed in Japan is being remade with huge directors and huge budgets."
"It made perfect sense that he was doing it and you could see he was incredibly visual. He was a great communicator with what he wanted."
Watts's newfound clout also helped her cast good friend, Australian Simon Baker, in the lead male role, although she half-heartedly protests - "No, he got the part himself. Yes, I called him but he was one of about 10 people they auditioned."
"Simon has delivered a number of great performances and he was perfect for the role but unfortunat-ely his character got cut quite a bit, which I was upset about. I think they wanted to concentrate on the parent-child thing.
"He has that quality that's very masculine and kind but there's something behind his eyes that's a little bit broken but is trustworthy and compassionate, so he was the perfect look for it. And we all knew he could act. And I did the best read for him," she grins.
"We had good chemistry. On some of the others I kept forgetting my lines, brought in the fart machine. Just kidding."
Naomi Watts says no to being a superhero !
Naomi Watts says she hopes she will never play a superhero or work in a comic book film though she says life is all about surprises.
A film like King Kong seems a stark shift for Watts who is an Academy Award nominated actress, much acclaimed for her intense dramatic performances.
She is cast in the Ann Darrow role in Peter Jackson's King Kong, now in its final weeks of filming in New Zealand and is already bearing the weight of expectation.
"It's such an iconic film and iconic part but hopefully it's not the only thing people talk about with me,I've done some other diverse things.Maybe not as diverse as acting next alongside a man playing Kong's finger, or Andy Serkis - Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy - playing Kong from the top of a crane, grunts and all. Yes he's wearing a suit but it's not a hairy gorilla suit, it's a special suit that helps him move and behave in a certain way. It all makes sense,'' Herald Sun quoted the actress as saying.
"But how awful would it be to be in a situation where everyone knows exactly what choice you're going to make next? I do hope I will never play a superhero or be in a comic book movie though. I really, really can say quite safely, I don't want to do those types of movies, but you never know.'' , she added.
Blonde, beautiful and talented, yes, but it was only when David Lynch revealed her darker side that her name went up in lights. Now, Naomi Watts is tipped for an oscar in '21 Grams'.
There's a moment in 21 Grams, Alejandro González Iñárritu's shattering, sombre movie about grief and loss, when you realise why Naomi Watts has become the most critically acclaimed actress of her generation. Sean Penn has just turned up on her doorstep and announced that her dead husband's heart has been transplanted into him. Watts's face, previously stony with grief, is convulsed by micro-flashes of disgust, incomprehension and pity, before she erupts in a rage so palpable and untethered that you fear for her sanity.
Many people have been struck by this emotional elasticity in Watts, including Iñárritu, who is fulsome in his praise of his leading lady when introducing the movie at a special preview screening. 'She has the beautiful face of an innocent angel one moment, and the next moment she will have the face of the devil,' he exclaims, animatedly. 'It's like she has all these layers that she peels away. She's like a wild orchid,' he concludes.
The template for Watts's split-screen personality was set by her breakthrough film, 2001's Mulholland Drive. David Lynch's bizarre vision of the Hollywood hall of mirrors was embodied by Watts, who started the movie as a perky, naive wannabe actress named Betty and morphed midway into a wracked, suicidal piece of Tinseltown jetsam named Diane, blasted by bitterness and an obsessive passion for another woman. It could have been a literal morph: as Diane, Watts's physical mannerisms, and even the shape of her face, were transformed. It seemed incomprehensible that Watts had been struggling for a decade in Hollywood prior to Mulholland Drive's release, though Iñárritu thinks this will work to her advantage in the end: 'She's like a good wine,' he says. 'You put her in the cellar for a few years, then bring her out, and she's even better, more complex, than before.'
Since Mulholland Drive, Watts has beefed up a brace of so-so movies. In The Ring, the workmanlike re-make of the Japanese psycho-horror classic, she added gravitas and unpredictability to a generic woman-in-peril role; in Merchant-Ivory's turgid Le Divorce, she seemed to have wandered on to the set of a frothy burlesque in the mistaken belief that it was something more profound. No matter how facile her characters might appear on paper, Watts, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, is able to endow them with sadness and the gift of pain.
Meeting her in the hushed library of a London hotel, Watts cuts a tomboyish figure. With her blonde hair tied back and her slender, 5ft 5in frame encased in a black boat-neck sweater over a stripy shirt and mildly distressed jeans, she is much younger looking than her 35 years. She chats animatedly about her Yorkshire terrier, Bob (he's been sick, but he's better now) and her adoration of The Office (she thinks Ricky Gervais is 'just a genius'). The force of her frequent, uninhibited laughter sends her sprawling amid the scatter cushions.
How does she feel about being sorrow's poster girl? 'Well, great things come out of darkness,' she says, her eyes narrowing and face clouding. 'Humour, creativity, sexuality... pain is a really important part of life. It forces you into facing hard things and answering difficult questions.
I think it's really important, as an artist, to have experienced suffering. I just find it more interesting.' She raises her eyebrows. 'Maybe you can take it too far. I mean, even in an ostensible romantic comedy like Le Divorce, I managed to play someone who attempts suicide. But it's not like I'm waking up in the morning and going, "How dark am I going to be today?" I think I'm pretty funny; I'm goofy and I can make my friends laugh. It's just that in the books I read, the paintings I like and the movies I go to see, I'm drawn to the dark and the mysterious.'
In that case, Watts and 21 Grams - named, as everyone may know by now, for the 'weight of the soul', ie the amount of weight lost at the moment of death - are a perfect match, as her raft of Golden Globe, Critics' Circle, Bafta and Oscar nominations confirm. Iñárritu's follow-up to his highly acclaimed Amores Perros is not only shattering, it's literally shattered. The movie's cubist structure cuts back and forth in time to piece together the blighted lives of its three protagonists - maths professor Penn, who teams up with grieving widow Watts after he receives her husband's heart to seek revenge on Benicio Del Toro's ex-con turned Jesus freak, who has wiped out Watts's family in a hit-and-run. Some critics have grumbled that Iñárritu's fast and loose approach to linearity serves to mask the melodramatic excesses of the plot, but all agree that the three protagonists are amazing to watch. Penn is quietly devastating, while Del Toro lopes through the film. But Watts has drawn special acclaim for the role of Cristina. 'Parts of her performance are unwatchable,' wrote one US critic, 'for all the right reasons.'
'She was such a beautiful soul to take on,' says Watts, who spent weeks attending group therapy meetings and sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous to prepare for the role (Cristina, it turns out, is an ex-addict, and her loss propels her back to the bottle). 'And I don't think Alejandro strikes a false note in the whole film, even though we're dealing with pretty heavy stuff. Having seen Amores Perros, I was willing to try anything, knowing I was in safe hands. He created an environment where you were allowed to try anything; you could play a scene every way from contained to OTT. I loved that freedom. Some actors edit their own performances; I hope I'm not guilty of that.'
There's a lot of death in 21 Grams, but its basic message seems to be, well, Life Goes On. 'You have to endure,' says Watts. 'I do believe that. I met people who've suffered terrible trauma, and they're forever changed and still angry, but they find a way to survive and find new meaning and beauty in the world and their lives, even if it's forever tainted by what they went through.'
Watts's commitment to the movie is informed by personal experience: her father, Peter, died in 1976, when she was just seven. She was born in Shoreham, Kent. Her mother Myffanwy (aka Miv) ran a semi-hippy household - bread baking, clothes weaving, the odd spot of pot smoking - and Peter was a sound engineer for bands such as Pink Floyd; that's his cracked laugh you can hear at the beginning of their 1973 classic Dark Side of the Moon. Peter and Miv were divorced when Watts was four, but were contemplating getting back together at the time of his death. Watts has said that, at that point, she basically withdrew, and has no clear memories of her childhood. When her mother attended a screening of 21 Grams, says Watts, 'She came up to me and hugged me and started sobbing and said, "I'm so sorry. I thought you were resilient because you seemed to express your emotions when your father died, but your brother didn't. [Watts's brother, Ben, is now a photographer.] And it's obvious you've experienced such pain."' Watts shakes her head. 'It was a bit of a moment.'
Actually, she says, she doesn't really remember expressing anything at the time. 'I was so young; I didn't understand death at all. I don't remember consciously blocking things out. But I did feel this sense of dislocation and apart-ness, though I had no point of reference back then. So 21 Grams was cathartic for me in many ways. All the best art helps to answer some of your own questions.' (And there are subtler, ongoing forms of catharsis; Watts's mobile phone ring-tone is 'Money', also from Dark Side of the Moon).
Watts's childhood was peripatetic - odysseys through England and Wales, a spell in an English boarding school - until Miv, feeling stymied by the early-Eighties recession in Britain, decided to move her family to Australia. Watts was 14 at the time. 'I really didn't want to go,' she says. 'To me, it was just another upheaval, new friends to make, a new accent to learn. Though actually,' she says, smiling, 'the accent thing wasn't so difficult. My brother still sounds really English, but I've always absorbed the accent of every place I've ever lived. Anyway, my mother persuaded me to give it six months. It worked. I loved it.'
But she was no nearer finding her role in life. Her school reports lambasted her inability to concentrate. Acting had always been part of the background noise - Watts remembers Miv, an aspiring actress until her kids came along, performing in a local Shoreham theatre production of My Fair Lady 'when I was about four or five', and in Sydney she started working on costumes and sets for movies (she now runs a couple of shops in Norfolk, called House Bait, selling ethnic interior things).
Watts entered a drama programme at high school, but left before graduation for a 'depressing' stint as a model in Japan and a 'stressful' period as a fashion editor on an Australian magazine. An impulsive visit to a weekend drama workshop was the catalyst. 'I'd been living a lie, I think. I was putting off plunging into that world because I thought I didn't really have the confidence to get up in front of people. But that weekend really lit the fuse. I walked into the office on Monday morning and quit. Everyone thought I was crazy. But within days I was going to my first casting.'
It was there that she met Nicole Kidman, then just another aspiring Aussie actress. 'I already knew who she was,' she says. 'We had some friends in common.' The pair acted together in the Aussie boarding-school coming-of-age movie Flirting in 1991 and their friendship is now two decades old - Kidman accompanied Watts, hand-in-hand, to the premiere of The Ring. 'The Aussie acting scene is pretty intimate,' says Watts. 'Everyone knows each other, at least by sight. So it's only natural that you stay in touch. But Nicole's always been a great support to me.'
That support has sometimes been sorely needed, particularly after Watts moved to Hollywood in the early Nineties. 'I was ambitious,' she says, 'and I wanted to go to the place that was really at the heart of things and try my luck.'
For years, her stock of the latter was notably low. For every C-list movie or graveyard-slot TV drama she managed to grace - Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering and The Bermuda Triangle were among the most piquant - there was a soul-destroying round of unsuccessful auditions, plummeting finances and health insurance, lost rental apartments and, latterly, pointed inquiries about her age. 'I don't know how I hung in there,' she says now. 'Well, actually, I do. I mean, I had my bags packed a bunch of times, ready to run back to Australia. But I always had just enough bites along the way to keep me there, to keep my hopes alive. My family is big on survival mechanisms. We all work incredibly hard, which comes from having no money. But I felt like jacking it in so many times. People were like, "Are you a masochist? Why put yourself through this?"'
Did she look to Kidman as an example? 'Not really,' she says, carefully. 'I mean, she was in such a different league.' One weekend, Watts found herself flying to Montana in a private jet with Emilio Estevez and joining Kidman and then-husband Tom Cruise on the set of their mawkish Oirish fantasy Far and Away. 'It was freaky. How could I compare myself to that level of success? It would be really unhealthy. So I'd play tricks on myself; I'd say, "Well, there's someone who really wants to be me, because I've got a Screen Actors' Guild card, £2,000 in the bank and a little Honda, and I'm trying to live my dream." I mean, it sounds brutal, but there's always someone further down the food chain than you are.'
The ranks of Watts wannabes were considerably swollen after the release of Mulholland Drive in 2001. In fact, her name has now become a kind of talisman among struggling actresses to hold aloft as they wade through their rejection slips. 'I'll never be able to say the words "David Lynch" without a fawning gratitude,' she laughs. 'I mean, two roles of a lifetime in one movie... 360 degrees of Naomi Watts. But it wasn't just the movie. David made me believe in myself. I'd become a sort of diluted person in Los Angeles, trying to succeed in what seemed a horribly uncreative place, auditioning in front of people who didn't understand me for a role I didn't believe in for one second. You leave pieces of yourself everywhere until you feel like a shell, a hulk. David tapped into that. He's incredibly intuitive. He saw through all the skins I'd built around myself and taught me that it was OK to embrace, well, you know...'
She smiles sheepishly. We're back to the dark stuff?
'Yes,' she laughs. 'He said, "You know, that being sweet was one thing, but being dark could be just as positive." I think I was frightened of being judged and giving too much of myself away. I went against a lot of what I thought were my better instincts in doing some of the stuff in Mulholland Drive. But that's a good director, someone who can tap into that, de-intellectualise you a bit.'
Watts stops short. She's afraid, she says, of appearing too portentous, and assures me that her joint British-Australian heritage has left her with a wide self-deprecatory seam that should, hopefully, stop her disappearing up her own fundament. In fact, she's now making her first foray into all-out comedy, albeit of the black variety, with a role in I Heart Huckabee's, David Three Kings O Russell's tale of a husband-and-wife team of existential detectives. 'I was calling David, saying, "Are you sure there's nobody else out there that you want for this?"' she says. 'I was absolutely terrified. "Can I do this? What if people have enjoyed what I've done and now they see this and hate me and I've ruined it all?"'
It seems an odd thing for someone to ask when they're basking in acclaim, peer respect, serial magazine cover-stardom and even the obligatory A-list relationship. (Watts has been seeing fellow Aussie actor Heath Ledger, 11 years her junior, after meeting him on the set of Ned Kelly; there was a recent conflicting-schedules blip, but they were spotted back in lovey-dovey mode in the New South Wales resort of Byron Bay over Christmas). But Watts's art is haunted by her long period in the wilderness, and she acknowledges - and works from - a long legacy of insecurities and uncertainties. She warns that we should make the most of her time in the spotlight: 'I'm dying to nest and put down roots. I've wanted to have kids since I was 19. Besides, I know everyone's going to get sick of me soon,' she says, with a grin.
However, I'm more inclined to return to Alejandro González Iñárritu's earlier analogy; the Watts vintage has only just been uncorked, and there'll be more complex notes to savour before she's through.
· 21 Grams is released on 5 March.
Naomi Watts: ''Ring Two''
Just as "The Ring" was a smash hit in the U.S., the Japanese movie on which it was based, "Ringu," was enormously popular, spawning a prequel and two sequels.
So which one does "The Ring Two," opening Friday, remake?
Try none of the above. Citing the Japanese prequel and sequels as being "extremely abstract and confusing," the producers decided to create an entirely new movie. The problem was "The Ring" director Gore Verbinski wasn't interested, nor was Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko"), and commercials director Noam Murro lasted only a couple of months before leaving over "creative differences."
So the producers turned to a director they were certain could handle the ambitious task: Hideo Nakata, the Japanese horror master behind both "Ringu" and "Ringu 2."
"Hideo clearly knew what he was doing," said "The Ring" star Naomi Watts, who supported the move. "He was fantastic from day one. He had a very pure vision of what this needed to be and ... he knew I had an understanding of the character as well, so it was good we both came with some history."
Ehren Kruger, who wrote "The Ring" (as well as "Arlington Road," "Scream 3" and "Reindeer Games"), was enlisted to pen the script, which follows entirely different characters than "Ringu 2." The main element of "The Ring" - the videotape - also plays a much smaller part in the U.S. sequel.
" 'The Ring Two' is all about Naomi's character, who has to face Samara's evil spirit again," Nakata said, referring to the ghost in the well from "The Ring." "But in a much worse manner compared to the first one, because the spirit is inside her boy, the spirit is right in front of her and she has to deal with the spirit. She can't just run away. 'The Ring Two' and 'Ringu 2' are completely different stories."
"The Ring Two" takes place six months after "The Ring," with Watts' character, Rachel Keller, and her son having moved to the quiet mountain town of Astoria, Washington, for a fresh start. One of her first assignments as a reporter, however, is to cover the mysterious death of a teenager where an unmarked tape turns up at the crime scene. (That opening scene and the end of "The Ring" are bridged in a 20-minute mini-movie called "The Rings," which was just released on "The Ring" special-edition DVD.)
As Rachel investigates the tape, or more so the return of Samara, the ghost reemerges into her life in frightening fashion, eventually taking over the body of her son. With that twist, Watts was forced to shoot several difficult scenes with child actor David Dorfman.
"It's scary," Watts said. "I was so nervous about doing anything that would make a child feel uncomfortable ... so we tried to work out all these systems, you know, 'Just give me the signal that we're not acting anymore.' "
Nakata, directing his first American film, also made it easier by thoroughly talking out the scenes before they were shot. "He also talked about how he was an only child and his mom raised him, so he had an understanding of that emotional relationship," Watts said.
In the movie, Rachel is eventually accused of child abuse, which is all the more believable when her doctor finds records of her suffering from post-partum depression. It's one of several examples of the movie advancing forward by taking from the characters' pasts. Samara's history is also explored in both flashback and through new characters, including her mother, played by Sissy Spacek.
"The parallels are being drawn between me as a mother and Samara's mother and what I have done to my child and what was done to her by her mother," Watts explained. "So there's things for the audience there to play with and look into, and that's clearly why Samara's drawn to me."
And then there are the history elements revealed that aren't ever realized, like when one of Samara's former caretakers tells Rachel that Samara has no father.
"I think that's a very interesting moment in this movie," Nakata said. "I would like the audience to be careful to listen to that line and to think about what the backstory is. It would be a very interesting 'Ring Three.' "
So is Nakata interested in continuing the U.S. side of "The Ring" franchise?
"I have a story in my mind," he said. "I had a discussion with ["Ringu" and "Ringu 2" screenwriter] Hiroshi Takahashi about the ghost's backstory. And I have my own story, but maybe it's better not to tell that at this moment."
As for Watts' chance of returning for a third, "We'll see," she said. "It just depends." Regardless, she's happy to have played Rachel twice.
"She had a great emotional journey in the first one and it was not just your classic genre picture with a damsel-in-distress kind of role," Watts said. "It was more than that and that's what drew me to the first. And I always knew when I did the first that there was going to be a number two."
Naomi Watts: "The Ring 2" & "Ellie Parker"
Before she became an international celebrity, before she was clutched by a giant ape or scared of a Ring or two, British-born Aussie Naomi Watts was unknown, struggling and determined to find herself in a town willing to chew up those who can't stomach rejection. Back then, Watts starred in a cute, funny and true-to-life short film, Ellie Parker, a hit at Sundance at a time when most of the world was still waiting to discover Naomi Watts. That was then, this is now, and this time she returns to Sundance older and wiser, in the midst of shooting Peter Jackson's King Kong with her sequel to The Ring about to open.
Dressed to the hilt in appropriate winter gear, Naomi Watts is full of energy during her brief sojourn at the Sundance Film Festival. As we sit upstairs in a Park City restaurant, Watts laughingly recalls her first visit to this wintry, but crazy film festival, when she was the one frantically calling journalists such as myself, begging us to cover this little short she both starred in and produced, Ellie Parker. "We were literally accosting people on the street, begging them, throwing flyers in their face," she recalls laughingly. Four years or so later, and how the mighty have risen. The irony does not escape the blond actress, whose Ellie Parker cuts close to her own life, in the story of a naïve Australian actress in Hollywood going from audition to audition, ready to finally give up her dream of being an actress. Both the short and subsequent feature, which was shot on and off over the last few years, co-starred her close friend Rebecca Rigg, now married with children, living with actor/husband Simon Baker in Malibu.
While Ellie Parker seems almost autobiographical, Watts tries to downplay the apparent parallels between her life as a struggling actor, and that of her fictional alter ego. "I mean it's true that there are moments that happen in the film, that were inspired by pieces of truth from our own lives, but obviously it's completely heightened reality and variations of the truth as well. You know, Scott [Coffey, director] was a struggling actor for many years as well and he'd gone through years of those horrible auditions, losing your dignity and being told who you are and believing it because of your self-esteem levels. so yeah, when Scott and I as actors worked together, a couple of times, we talked about these experiences, and he had had this idea that he'd been thinking about to do this film about an actress going from one audition to another. That was the original idea, and then it kind of just grew and evolved," Watts explains. "I can see the temptation to draw a parallel but it's really not my life, it's the combination of Scott's, Rebecca's and all of our experiences thrown in and shaking it."
Yet, like Ellie Parker in the film, both Ellie and Naomi were at times willing to give it up, but somehow manage to find this professional far too irresistible. "You can't give it up," Watts adds with a low laughter, comparing acting to an addictive drug. She says that what makes acting so addictive, is "because you love what you do. It's the creative thing that when you're actually acting, between action and cut, THAT is fun, or even in the drama class or whatever forum you're doing it in. It's the other stuff that's horrible - the exposing yourself," referring to the often debilitating audition process that she embarked upon for almost a decade prior to her attention-grabbing role in Mulholland Drive. "That's what Ellie Parker is more about, not just about the acting experiences, auditions, managers, agents and stuff, but about a young woman who is putting too much emphasis on other people's opinions of herself, and therefore wrapping up her own identity in these people who couldn't possibly know who she was. So that struggle for integrity and identity is more of what we were trying to say," Watts insists.
The days of those endless auditions may be over for Naomi, but she constantly returns to the small film arena which challenges her. This year alone, Watts will be carrying three major films: The Ring Two, Stay and the gorilla of them all, King Kong. "It's a beautiful juxtaposition, working on probably the most expensive movie of the year as well as the cheapest movie of the year," she says, laughingly, referring to Ellie Parker and Kong. "But the intention remains the same and my commitment to what I'm doing is exactly the same. It's fun to go from these totally polar, opposite worlds."
While Watts did not need to appear in this week's Ring Two, the actress concedes she was contractually obliged to star in the spooky thriller. "Back then, I really didn't have the power of choice," Watts concedes, yet having said that, she had no qualms revisiting the world of The Ring, this time directed by Hideo Nakata, who helmed the original. "The first one was a good script, the film did very, very well and it went beyond a genre piece, with an extreme character in it which is quite rare in a genre, where there is usually just running and screaming," the actress explains.
"The Ring 2" picks up six months after the horrifying events that terrorized Rachel Keller (Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) in Seattle. To escape her haunting memories, Rachel takes Aidan and moves to the small coastal community of Astoria, Oregon, to start fresh. However, Rachel's resolve quickly turns to dread when evidence at a local crime scene - including an unmarked videotape - seems eerily familiar. Rachel realizes that the vengeful Samara is back and more determined than ever to continue her relentless cycle of terror and death. Watts says that her "character had a lot more substance and it was about confronting the situation, the psychological aspects to it, and moral dilemmas, which I think have come up again in the sequel. They took a long time with the script, DreamWorks are very clever people, they know how to make it right and they persisted. We have a great director, who directed the original one, and we have a great cast. I think there is always that fear of doing any sequel but we took our time in trying to make it the best we could, while also give a nod to the audience."
Still in New Zealand shooting King Kong, Watts has no doubts as to why Kong is a huge film she as more than keen to become a part of. "It's going great. I love it. It's fantastic. Peter Jackson and his team of people are just extraordinary," Watts enthuses. Meanwhile, Watts is not thinking about the pressures of headlining such a highly anticipated and expensive movie. "I try not to pay attention to it. I show up on the day and give it my all. I'm as committed to that film as I am committed to something like Ellie Parker." As long as this journalist has known Watts, from Flirting to Kong, the one constant is that she is as hard on herself now, as she was throughout her burgeoning career. "I'm my worst critic. I have a little bit more confidence that it won't all go away tomorrow and I don't have to do everything that comes along." Indeed, Watts is finally ready not to give up quite yet.
Exorcist called in to Watts' film
THERE were so many weird incidents on the set of Naomi Watts' spooky new sequel The Ring 2 that a Japanese Shinto minister was flown in midway through the shoot to perform a purification ceremony. The incidents were almost identical to some of the scenes in the thriller's script, freaking out the cast and crew.
"Naomi was pretty relieved after we had the ceremony," Ring 2 director, Hideo Nakata, said in Los Angeles.
"The crew was relieved too."
Most of the incidents happened while The Ring 2 was being shot in the scenic US seaside town of Astoria, in the north-west state of Oregon.
The Ring 2 brings back the vengeful Samara, a girl with matted black hair and a method of killing victims through a video tape.
Nakata said the strange incidents on set began on May 20, last year, when the film's production office was flooded after a water pipe inexplicably burst in a wall.
The make-up truck, where Watts and her co-stars including another Australian actor, Simon Baker, sat each day was also flooded.
The floodings were almost identical to scenes in Ring 2 where Samara uses her supernatural powers to fill rooms with water.
"Because we were making a film about cursed water, evil spirited water, when we had the floods the crew freaked out," Nakata said.
"I'm from Japan and my assistant is from Japan so we arranged a Shintoist. It's a traditional way of purification in Japan.
"All the crew felt much better."
However creepy incidents, similar to the script, kept occurring.
A swarm of thousands of bees invaded a prop truck. The prop workers were evacuated, but soon afterwards the bees fled too.
A five gallon water jug, for no known reason, burst in the same production office that flooded weeks earlier.
Then, on the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles, a costume department employee came face to face with a antlered buck. The buck, just like a scary scene in Ring 2, charged at the employee.
Nakata, who directed the original Japanese Ring horror films, Ringu and Ringu 2 that Watts' American Ring films are based on, is used to weird happenings on set.
"During the shoot of Ringu 2 we think we overheard a ghost's voice," Nakata said.
"Nobody could explain it.
"A microphone was put on the surface of the sea and we could hear a young man's voice calling a woman's name.
"It seemed impossible.
"Maybe there is a scientific explanation, but I don't know."
Ring 2 opens in Australia March 24.
Naomi Watts: Ring Two
DreamWorks has released a batch of fresh images from their forthcoming sequel to The Ring.
In The Ring Two, Naomi Watts reprises her role as investigative reporter Rachel Keller. Six months after the events that transpired in the first film – enough to freak out any mild-mannered reporter – Keller and her son, Aidan (David Dorfman), move to the small town of Astoria, Oregon to escape the haunting memory of Samara and her cursed videotape. It's while reporting on the suspicious death of a local that a piece of evidence from the scene is brought to Keller's attention: a videotape. Rachel realizes that the vengeful Samara is back and more determined than ever to continue her relentless cycle of terror and death.
Watts and Dorfman star along with Simon Baker, Emily Van Camp, Sissy Spacek and Elizabeth Perkins. Hideo Nakata, who helmed the original Japanese film Ringu on which The Ring was based, directed the film from a script by Ehren Kruger.
The Ring Two hits theaters on March 18th.
Naomi Watts stars in "King Kong"
Just as the film crew traveling to Skull Island in the original 1933 version of "King Kong" had no idea what was in store, Peter Jackson wants to keep moviegoers guessing about his upcoming remake.
"I'm not allowed to say too much," star Naomi Watts said recently when prodded for details.
"I can't say much, but it's going to be impressive," an equally well-trained Adrien Brody said a few days later.
One thing cast members would say is that people should expect more than just an onslaught of special effects.
"It's not going to be a superficial movie," said Brody, who's returning to Wellington, New Zealand, this week to wrap up production. "It's going to be very compelling and wonderful — incredible sequences and yet intense drama. ... I am getting the chance to be very heroic, much more the action hero than I [normally] get to play, and yet the character is very full of depth."
British actor Jamie Bell, best known for "Billy Elliott," said the casting of Brody, Watts and Jack Black, actors hardly known for action movies, is a sign of the kind of movie it will be.
"I think [Jackson] went for actors, people who can deliver performances, instead of people who can just bring in box office [numbers], which I think is a much better idea," Bell said. "I want to see good acting, a good story. I think they're all perfectly cast. Naomi, the idea that beauty killed the beast, she's perfect for that role."
As for the story line, "we're honoring the original, but Peter Jackson is a clever man and he's obviously introduced great new ideas and has made it incredibly modern," Watts said without elaborating.
The gist is Black's character, eccentric filmmaker Carl Denham, is on a mission to make a movie on a mysterious Indian Ocean island where a giant gorilla is said to be roaming. Among his crew are reluctant screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Brody) and actress Ann Darrow (Watts), all characters from the original. (The 1976 remake had different characters.)
One of the new additions is Bell's Jimmy, the lookout on the SS Venture, the ship on which the crew is traveling. "They wanted a kid in the film, so I play the kid," he said.
Bell, who has grown accustomed to low-budget indie films since debuting in "Billy Elliott" (two of his latest movies screened at Sundance last week), was shocked his first day on set at Jackson's Stone Street Studios, where the director built a rain forest. "You get showed around the digital departments, the miniature departments and all this crazy stuff and you get overwhelmed by it all," he said. "But it's been a lot of fun. ... You're going onto a production where the director and his production team just won every single Academy Award they were nominated for, 11 Academy Awards. These guys know exactly what they're doing."
For Jackson, "King Kong" is truly a labor of love. The original is what inspired him to make movies, and in 1997, before he started the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, he had already written a remake and was set to direct it. At the last minute, however, the studio pulled the plug because two similar movies were already in production. (Both of those — "Godzilla" and "Mighty Joe Young" — flopped.)
Now that he has a second chance, Jackson, along with his "Rings" collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, has penned a new script and put together a visuals team that is promising more special effects than in all three "Rings" movies combined.
Still, Jackson hasn't lost his ability to pull memorable performances from his cast.
"You expect him to be so concerned about the technicalities of the scene, what he's gonna do in post-production with the effects and blue screen," Bell said. "But he has an ability to store all of that inside of his head and still be able to approach an actor and tell him what's wrong with a scene or how he should do it differently."
In other words, "Peter Jackson is a genius," Brody said. "I am really thrilled to be a part of it."
"They're really wonderful people and incredibly creative, and I'm having the time of my life," Watts added.
Bell is also having a blast, but he's quick to point out that big-budget movies aren't simply fun and games. "It's not all glamour and glitz. There's a lot of running through jungles, getting trampled on by various things," he said. "It's not all easy."
"King Kong" is expected to wrap at the end of March and is due in theaters December 14.
Naomi Watts Is A Real Diamond
About 30 minutes into David Lynch's surreal Hollywood odyssey "Mulholland Drive" (2001), two stone-faced men in dark suits stroll into a studio boardroom, bypassing any of the expected glad-handing and pleasantries. As an obstinate young director looks on, determined not to entertain suggestions for his leading lady, one of them simply snaps open his briefcase, pulls out a blank manila envelope and slides it across the table. Inside is a headshot of a would-be starlet who has yet to audition for the part -- or any part, for that matter.
"This is the girl," the man says. And he makes it clear to everyone in the room that he's not just making a recommendation.
Of course, in doing so, the man ruins the chances of another actress, the one played by Naomi Watts in a turn that made her the toast of the art house world and paved the way for an enviable Hollywood career. The fictional starlet, however, has not enjoyed the same kind of success.
Born in England and raised in Australia, Watts had a small role in the winning 1991 comedy "Flirting," which turned out to be a lucky charm for several of her castmates, particularly Thandie Newton and her close friend Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile, her road to stardom snaked through such unsavory detours as "Children Of The Corn IV" (1996) before she finally emerged on the other side. After her breakthrough role swept the major critics awards, Watts has confirmed her Kidman-like versatility in "The Ring" and "Le Divorce," slipping into characters, genres and accents with tactile grace and sensitivity.
Squaring off against powerhouse co-stars Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro in "21 Grams," Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's blistering follow-up to "Amores Perros" (2000), Watts more than holds her own, performing with a raw, unguarded intensity that recalls Emily Watson in Lars von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996). Playing a suburbanite widowed by a car accident, Watts occupies the film's emotional center, orbited by the born-again ex-con (Del Toro) who ran over her husband and the beneficiary of her spouse's transplanted heart (Penn). The role asked a lot from Watts, and she gave everything she had in return, leading to moments of harrowing anguish that could have easily edged into over-the-top theatrics.
One year after Halle Berry won an Oscar for her full-barreled performance in "Monster's Ball" (2002), Watts seems poised to leave an indelible stamp on Academy voter's minds.
For reasons that will become obvious to anyone once they've seen the film, Watts relished every opportunity to steel herself for the experience, which called for her to cry nearly every day for two months.
"It's the first time I've had the script for such a long time before shooting began," Watts says, "and there's really something to be said for that. Generally, I'm used to preparing three weeks or even one week beforehand, which doesn't give me much to do. So with all that time, I was able to seek out various grief therapy support groups, I went to rehab centers, and I got a glimpse into the overwhelming devastation of personal tragedy and loss."
Keeping up such a high level of intensity led to an increasing physical and emotional exhaustion that was naturally channeled back into the movie, where her weariness is right in step with the character. But as well as Watts understood what she was getting into, even she had her limits.
"There were times when I told Alejandro, 'I'm sorry. I can't feel it. I don't know what to do. I'm lost,' Watts says. "In those times, we'd just have to pause, take a break, and I'd have to collect myself again. But there was another time when my voice had actually become a whisper because I was screaming and crying so much. At the end of the week, we were heading into a really important scene and I was afraid of totally losing vocal power, not just for the afternoon, but for the days ahead of us. So we rescheduled."
On top of everything else, Watts spent the majority of her time acting opposite Penn, whose established presence was humbling long before it was assuring. "I was incredibly intimidated by the notion (of acting with him)," admits Watts. "The fear dissipated a little bit during rehearsal, but when we got back on set for the first day of filming, I said to myself, 'I can't believe I'm sitting here opposite Sean Penn.' This was way beyond anything I had dreamed for myself."
Adds Watts: "But when you look at an actor who's telling the truth, you think, 'Wow, I must be doing something good,' because otherwise you wouldn't get that kind of reaction from him."
To Inarritu, Watts' circuitous route to the top might hold the key to her appeal because it bred a fearless, resourceful acting style that might have been lost to instant celebrity. "She's not trying to pretend anything," Inarritu says. "She's really sensitive. She's really alive, and she's worked hard to get where she is. She hasn't been spoiled by fame or money."
Adds Inarritu: "She's a diamond. A beautiful, talented diamond."
Naomi Watts: "We Don't Live Here Anymore" & "Ring 2"
Naomi Watts' latest film, We Don't Live Here Anymore, deals with betrayal, a theme that the now single Oscar nominee says she can relate to. "I've been betrayed many times and I don't mean just in a relationship, as in infidelity, but your parents betray you from day one here and there," Watts explains as we chat in a Beverly Hills hotel room on a sunny LA morning. "I mean that's just a part of life, it's an ongoing thing, where every day there's something in mild and varying degrees." As her latest screen character discovers by the end of the movie, in life, Watts agrees, makes us stronger human beings. "100%, and I'm sure I've betrayed people many times as well."
Naomi has thrived playing characters who are intense or caught up in intense predicaments, whether it's the distraught wife trying to piece together a tragic life in her Oscar-nominated 21 Grams, a single mother and journalist avoiding the inevitability of death in The Ring, or as in We Don't Live Here Anymore, in which she plays a wife and mother who averts her husband's infidelity by herself cheating with his best [and married] friend. It's another wonderful role for the Australian actress, but not one that bears many parallels with her more recent 21 Grams character, "except maybe that she's grieving, the loss of love that she has been in, in a slow gradual way for many, many years. With Christine in 21 Grams, it's a shocking situation that takes over her life and she actually experiences grief. I think it couldn't be more different. Edith, in this movie, is passive, sad and depressed." Watts says that the film's theme is partly what she finds interesting about her latest film, "Because it is very real. You don't go to this movie, put your popcorn on your lap, have a giggle and then not take it home with you; it's confronting."
Asked what she draws on to play Edith, Watts says that "I think imagining a life without love and without expression. This is a woman who hasn't been heard, seen or touched in a loving, passionate way for many years and she lives with the knowledge of her husband's infidelity and creates mechanisms to survive. Then suddenly she finds herself reaching to awaken something in her, which gives her courage and a sense of herself again," Watts says.
Watts, who can afford to be choosy as to what she does these days, originally turned down We Don't Live Here Anymore, despite it being directed by her close friend John Curran. "John came to me with the project and there was no chance of me working that soon after 21 Grams." What changed her mind was the opportunity of playing a role she had never tackled before: that of producer. "That was one of the things that lured me in the end because at first I didn't even want to read the script because they had a window that they had to fill and I thought there's just no way. I was too tired, 21 Grams really drained me and I needed to just rest, and go to the spa, not another film set. John said "please" and he's been a friend for many years, and "I really, really want you to look at this. I read the script and I still said "no John, this is not something I can do" and then they approached me as a producer, and I thought that is interesting to me because I've never done it and I do have that desire, I would like to direct as well, but I think my mind is more built at this point in my life to produce."
As for Watts' directing aspirations, they are destined to be on hold,. For as an actress, nobody seems busier these days as Ms. Watts, who had just wrapped work on The Ring 2 not long prior to this interview. While some cynics might argue that doing that sequel could be considered a step back in her critically acclaimed career, the actress concedes that she did it for contractual reasons. "I was contractually obliged to do it, and back then, I really didn't have the power of choice, but the first one was a good script, the film did very, very well and it went beyond a genre piece, it's got an extreme character in it which is quite rare in a genre, where there is usually just running and screaming. This character had a lot more substance and it was about confronting the situation, the psychological aspects to it, and moral dilemmas, which I think have come up again in the sequel. They took a long time with the script, DreamWorks are very clever people, they know how to make it right and they persisted. We have a great director, who directed the original one, and we have a great cast. I think there is always that fear of doing any sequel but we took our time in trying to make it the best we could."
But Watts is not the same, relatively unknown [internationally] actress that she was on the set of The Ring. These days, with her Oscar nomination and flurry of Hollywood offers, Naomi says that she has no qualms these days of taking a more active role in the film making process. "I'm certainly more vocal. I've always had my ideas but not nearly the courage that I have to speak up and, say, give my ideas, I basically think when they respect your work, they want to hear your ideas. It's not just speaking out of turn. Things have gone well and they ask my opinion and it's nice because I think films require collaboration. Even some of the most incredible geniuses like David Lynch, want to know your opinion, and to see what you bring to the table."
Watts is currently in New Zealand as star of the remake of King Kong. One wonders, despite it being a huge Hollywood film, whether Watts would have been willing to jump into Kong's gargantuan claws, had it not been for its director, Oscar winner Peter Jackson. "That's a tough one. If it was someone else, great. There's a really beautiful scene in that movie which is very simple. It's a love story like Beauty and The Beast.," Watts explains. The actress also concedes that business decisions do sometime play a part in deciding whether or not to do a film such as King Kong. "I think there's a blending or merging of art and commerce but it's certainly not calculated or planned. I still have to love the script or the director, and mainly I choose my director before anything," Watts insists.
Watts has finally attained the dream of many aspiring actors, to be given choice in what she does. 13 years after we first met, Watts smilingly agrees that she had no idea we would be chatting about her latest Hollywood blockbuster. "I always imagined that I hoped for the good fortune of being a working actor, but beyond that, it seemed too far-fetched." Dividing her time between Sydney and Los Angeles, Watts says that the seductive nature of Hollywood, cannot help but change one over the years, to some extent. "I think everyone changes every day and you don't have to be so black and white about it. You've changed, and you've learned to look after yourself and in a productive environment where people will suck you dry if they can. You become a little more guarded and stronger, but I have the same group of friends that I've always had and they tell me if I'm out of line, and I let them because I respect them. If ever there's any moment where I'm believing anything people say about me, then my friends will cut me back down to size," Naomi says, laughingly. "I think that's part of being Australian, which never leaves you."
There was a time, when Naomi did not have the world at her feet, but now, it seems that the work is more than enough to keep her busy. With so many films coming out, Watts agrees that her workaholic drive is a defence mechanism that harks back to her days as another struggling young actress. "Certainly, I think there's truth in that. The phone did not really ring for ten years and suddenly now I'm getting to the stage where I'm starting to trust that it's not going to go away tomorrow, and that there is now a reason to believe that I can take a break if I want to."
Watts says that she definitely plans to take a break after King Kong, and admits that she has found genuine happiness. "I'm very happy," Naomi says smilingly .
Naomi Watts: "Le Divorce"
Naomi Watts joins that flurry of Australian actors, bound for Hollywood fame and success. Little known in the US until Mulholland Drive and The Ring put her on the map, now the beautiful blonde Aussie is working harder than ever, with close to 6 films at or near completion, but as she confessed to PAUL FISCHER whilst promoting Le Divorce, she's ready to take a year off.
Naomi Watts looked relaxed in a Los Angeles hotel room where she was promoting the Paris-set Le Divorce, the first of several major Hollywood films that Watts has either completed, shooting or is officially attached to. The beautiful 34-year old British-born Australian actress has come a long way since 2001's Mulholland Drive put her squarely on the international road to stardom, and she is milking her spate of success for all it's worth, even if it means working virtually non-stop in the process. "I think the panic of not working for ten years is still very much alive in me, and I'm now starting to trust it a little bit and thinking, okay, I've got a little bit of a shot at this." Watts admits that she is finally "coming to terms with the fact that I really need to have some time off and slow down a bit." The actress says after completing her next film, she will spend a few months in Europe "trying to spend time with my boyfriend," fellow Aussie Heath Ledger. Naomi is trying to maintain a degree of normalcy in her frenetic life, and though reluctant to talk much about her personal life, she admits that she is househunting when she has the time, everywhere from Los Angeles to Sydney. "I'm always house hunting, but, you know, it's not a constant search, but rather late nights on the web looking at apartments," she says, smilingly. The higher her profile, the more likely it is that stardom will encroach into her privacy. Watts says that she doesn't go out of her way to protect herself from the unwanted celebrity aspects of her profession. "Nobody asks for that, and nobody says: I want to be some famous entertainer. In my case, I try and turn off to it, and stay away from reading stuff about myself. On the other hand, I don't censor myself, and say well, I'm not going to go out today? What if this photographer or whatever is following you?"
In the meantime, the actress's film schedule heats up with the release of the romantic comedy-drama Le Divorce, directed by James Ivory, as it tells of two American sisters discovering the joys and pains of love and sex in the City of Lights. Watts is would-be poet Roxy, who had been living in Paris for several years with her French husband, who inexplicably deserts her while she is pregnant with their second child. Watts was partially attracted to the film because "it meant a free trip to Paris and eating all that wonderful French food", she says laughingly. But it was clearly more than that. "I think every element of this film is quite beautiful. The Merchant Ivory team has created so many fantastic roles for women in the past, and the script was great, with this beautiful merging of both comedy and drama, and it's about life." Watts adds that there are certain aspects of her character she can relate to. "In the most specific way, I would say that the fact that she's an outsider no matter where she is, in her own family and in France, and I've moved around a lot, having grown up in England and then going to Australia and even within England I went to many different schools. I know what it is to try to be the one person who's not quite fitting in, but also enjoying that a little bit at times, being quite different, and so I can relate to her in that aspect. But she's also in a terrible crisis, and I still haven't experienced that terrible crisis as yet," she says, referring to her character's pregnancy. Though playing a lot of mothers lately, playing a pregnant character isn't suddenly bringing to the surface Watts' own maternal instincts. "My maternal feelings are already there and so it didn't change that. I know that I'd definitely like to have children and I often start wondering when," she says. "I played mothers a lot lately, and the children are getting older and more abundant," she adds, laughingly.
Currently shooting David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabee's, alongside the likes of Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg and Dustin Hoffman, Watts has completed 21 Grams with Sean Penn, We Don't Live Here Anymore with Mark Ruffalo, is about to shoot a small role in another Sean Penn film The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and is in pre-production on Stay, with Ewan McGregor, not to mention her attachment to The Ring sequel. Although the actress says that is selective about what she chooses, she doesn't maintain a fixed formula as to how she chooses a project. "I think it changes all the time and sometimes it's not so clear. You can read the script and one scene can pop out to you or a lot of the time lately it's been about the director for me because I think you're really safe with a really good director."
Following the release of Le Divorce, a different side of Watts will unfold in the much anticipated 21 Grams, which will probably premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Not one who allows roles to linger, the actress says that shooting this intense drama was tough. "With 21 Grams I basically cried everyday for a month, and that really depressed me." From the Mexican writing-directing team behind the Oscar-nominated Amores Perros 21 Grams interweaves stories about Christine, a single mother and former drug addict (Watts); Paul (Sean Penn), a terminally ill professor, who was (or still is) Christine's lover; and Jack (Benicio Del Toro), a reformed ex-convict. "I'm not going to talk too much about that film yet because I don't want to give too much away, but it deals with grief, loss and a lot of other emotions." It was not an easy film to leave behind, she adds. "At the time that you're making a film like that, it does tend to take over your whole mood. I was very devoted to the film and the character, and in order to make it authentic you do really try to get into the psyche and soul of that person, so It's hard to not let it live inside you," Watts confesses.
Watts was initially raised in England, going from school to school. Her interest in acting began watching British films such as Darling and Don't Look Now. "I grew up loving Julie Christie and that was who I grew up watching." She was about 14 when her widowed mother relocated the family to Australia and a new life. She made her screen debut in the Australian film For Love Alone in 1986, but didn't really work again for another five years in friend Nicole Kidman's Flirting. The Australian miniseries Brides of Christ garnered her attention the same year, and her film career took off in fits and starts. Early film and TV roles in both the US and Australia included Gross Misconduct, The Wide Sargasso Sea, Tank Girl, Children of the Corn IV, Under the Lighthouse Dancing, The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer and Strange Planet. But 10 years following Flirting, critics truly noticed Naomi's depth of talent, and the roles poured in. Still close friends with the likes of Kidman and Russell Crowe, she knows precisely why Australian actors are all of a sudden taking Hollywood by storm. "I definitely think the training has to do with it. We've got government run drama schools, people take it seriously and they're encouraged," Watts says.
After her European break, Watts will begin shooting Stay and says that she is committed to The Ring sequel, and not simply for contractual reasons. "I really liked that role, and it seemed to do well so, I'd be thrilled and excited to do it probably next year." And will she find time to work in Australia? "All of us expatriate Aussies go back."
Naomi Watts: The Ring Interview
Young actress, trying to make a name for herself back in Australia, the British-born Aussie has finally been discovered by Hollywood. Now starring [and literally carrying] her first Hollywood film, the eerie thriller The Ring, Watts laughs at the notion that here in Hollywood, at least, she is unknown. If one talks to the local media in Los Angeles , despite her having done some 30 films 12 years on, Naomi is Hollywood's ‘next big thing'. "Look, whatever they want to believe is fine" she says amidst peals of laughter. "Perspective is perspective and you can't mess with that. It's fine in a way when they say "Oh, she's fresh'. I mean, who can argue with that?"
In Los Angeles' trendy W Hotel, Naomi is a radiant presence. The beautiful 34-year old is wearing a pink striped shirt, grey pants and a woollen tank top, her blond hair hangs perfectly at her shoulders. Always luminous, on and off the screen, Watts recalls that as an adolescent, she was far less the attractive young woman who has developed over the years, recalling that she was very much "a later bloomer", as she recalls her plain Jane days of being a tomboy. "I had a big brother and never had Barbie dolls. Instead, we played with action men and drew pictures of wars, not noses", she says, laughingly. "Me and my brother were climbing trees and I was just in awe of him, so all of his friends became MY friends. I wasn't a ‘girlie girl' who wasn't precious or any of that. Grooming and that kind of stuff never entered into it. I never had pretty pink nail polish on or pretty pink dresses. None of that was a part of my life; I was about force and being tough girl. I never became aware of my body or looks until I was in my early twenties."
Born in England, Naomi moved to Australia when she was just 14. She recalls how she felt having been uprooted from her friends at the time. "I moved around England a lot when I was a kid, and that was unsettling at the time when my mum was still trying to find her feet in terms of what career she wanted, "she recalls. Her parents divorced when Naomi was 4 "and my dad was on the road all the time, so we lived with my grandparents, and I ended up going to 7 different schools." Her maternal grandmother was Australian, which was one of the factors that prompted Naomi's mother to make the decision to move to Australia, "which I just hated the idea of doing. At 14, you know, you're just trying to find your feet." Initially wary of her new homeland, Watts eventually settled in. "Once I got there, it was a bit of a culture shock and there were obviously some things we all had to adjust to, but I ultimately loved it and in retrospect it was the best thing that my mum ever did." Her acting career began in a small way, appearing as one third of a trio of friends in John Duigan's Flirting, in which she appeared with long-time friend Nicole Kidman. Naomi may have had no idea at the time how successful Kidman would become, but still close friends, the actress recalls seeing how she coped with the kind of fame and spotlight that may well be imposed on Naomi in the months to come, not that the pair necessarily discussed this in any great detail. "I've experienced it with her, and when you're a friend, you watch and learn. It's not that you ask advice and get pointers. "
Watts' own Hollywood career has come in fits and starts. She had high hopes that such films as 1995's Tank Girl, 1999's Hunt for the Unicorn Killer, or the as yet unreleased thriller Down, would elevate her profile. But Hollywood success can be fickle and she recalls the number of times she was seriously thinking of packing it all in. It was her friend Nicole that urged her not to give up. "She was always very encouraging and when the chips were down and I was really thinking of throwing in the towel, she kept on telling me to hang in there, that all it takes is one thing, and she was right."
That ‘one thing' was the unexpected theatrical release of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, which was originally made as a television pilot. She was both surprised and not, that it was that film that emerged as her Hollywood springboard. "It doesn't surprise me because of that role which was just so outstanding and not many actors could get to play that in their whole career let alone in one movie." On the other hand, she adds, reflectively, "I never thought I'd EVER get a chance so it ended up being surprising that it took David Lynch, one man, to have the guts to believe in me and help everyone else understand that I DID have something."
Hollywood has now, finally, beckoned in a big way. The name of the game is choice and she has plenty to choose from, which suits her just fine. Watts is now starring in her first Hollywood film, The Ring, a remake of the acclaimed Japanese horror pic in which she plays a reporter trying to unravel the chilling mystery of a videotape that kills whoever watches it, exactly seven days later. While it is a genre film, Watts was attracted to this as her first big US film, "because it's such a great role, especially the protagonist being female when that kind of part is normally reserved for the guys. She gets to go through such an incredible journey, not just with the struggle and chaos that's happening around her, but her own personal journey." That journey has her starting out "as this very flawed woman, which attracted me. I like her complexities and the fact that she thinks everything's OK because she's not fighting with her son. She then discovers that throughout the journey that she needs to be a better mum, has a moment to reflect and think: OK I've learned something through this, which I liked"
Naomi Watts has reason to be all smiles. 12 years after we first met while she was very much the proverbial unknown Although there are moments of absolute terror and creepiness in The Ring, Watts relied a lot on her imagination to express the kinds of fears her character conveys throughout much of the film. "I'm someone who has a degree of fear like any normal human being," she explains. "I love to play it, because it's a really good emotion to play. I love that I can contribute to manipulating someone else's emotions because we all can trick our own minds into believing or feeling things where you can go to a movie and have someone else trick you." Not specifically a fan "of the next big genre movie coming out", Watts says that she loves "really good, psychological thrillers. Most of the HORROR films that I've loved are those that take more time to frighten you, which are creepier, like Don't Look Now and The Shining. I think The Ring has that air of intelligence about it."
Although she plays a reporter in The Ring, Watts found few parallels between that aspect of her character, and her real-life relationship with the tabloid press, although she does admit that America's tabloids are tame in comparison to what she is used to. "In Australia they're definitely more brutal", she smilingly concedes. "I think they're up there with the worst of them and the British ones are pretty bad too. It's funny, though, people want to know about my preparations in playing a journalist and the truth is that I went literally from the set of a movie in south Wales to the set of The Ring in Seattle, so it really wasn't enough preparation time for me to explore that. Therefore, the imagination was at work, and also, the film does this quick gear change going from: Journalistic skills out the window to let's just survive here and what mechanism can I use to protect, survive and arguably save the world? It's not about an angle or a scoop."
Nor is there an angle or scoop into the private life of Naomi Watts. Always guarded about her privacy, Naomi won't discuss her much publicised relationship with fellow Aussie Heath Ledger, whom she met on the set of The Kelly Gang, in Australia. Although now much more in the glare of the spotlight than she was a little over a year ago, the actress is preparing the fame that she may have to content with, "by doing what I've always done, which includes hanging out with the same people. All of this stuff [undertaking massive publicity tours] definitely fills up your life which becomes a lot fuller. However, it's a just a part of it despite it being pretty stressful, unusual, unnatural, all the attention, focus and stuff, but you just keep on doing what you've always done and I just never want to be one of those people who is too afraid to leave the house and miss out on experiences."
Naomi is now in the kind of position she has been fighting to attain for over a decade, and with that, comes the kind of choices she wants to make, and those choices have brought with them some amazing offers. In November, she will begin rehearsals for 21 Grams, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who made Amores Perros, and which stars Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro no less. "I grew up on Sean's work and he's such an extraordinary actor I'm in complete awe of working with him." Watts recently wrapped Le Divorce which she shot in Paris with Kate Hudson, the British film Rain Falls, with Kate Beckinsale, Plots with a View co-starring Brenda Blethyn and of course the Australian film The Kelly Gang with Heath Ledger and Rachel Griffiths. Life couldn't be sweeter for Ms Watts. No wonder she is all smiles.
Naomi Watts Going Ape
Forget about ex-beau Heath Ledger. This Aussie actress has eyes for a 25-foot gorilla.
Naomi Watts is Peter Jackson's top choice to channel Fay Wray in the director's highly anticipated remake of King Kong.
According to Wellington, New Zealand's Dominion Post, Watts flew to London in October and met with The Lord of the Rings ringleader to discuss playing Ann Darrow, i.e., the alluring blonde starlet who attracts the love of a great ape.
"It's looking okay," Jackson told the paper. "She got really excited and it was great. Naomi's the only person that we've really approached because she's becoming so eagerly sought after by everybody."
During the meeting, Jackson showed Watts sketches and designs regarding his vision for Kong, purportedly a period piece set in the 1930s.
Like the 1933 original, Jackson's redo will follow a group of intrepid explorers accompanied by a documentary film crew on a journey to a remote island to investigate the legend of a gigantic gorilla named Kong. The super-simian turns out to be alive and well and horny for Darrow, who is used as bait to subdue the monkey. Arriving back in the Big Apple, Kong breaks free of his shackles, grabs Darrow and shows her a good night (literally) on the town.
Terms of the offer have not been disclosed. Calls to Watts' publicist were not returned.
Following her breakthrough role in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, Watts has quickly ascended the A-list and has become one of the Industry's most sought-after leading ladies. In the past year, she scored her first major box office with The Ring, costarred in the Merchant-Ivory ensemble Le Divorce and received critical accolades for her performance opposite Sean Penn in 21 Grams, which has garnered talk of her first Oscar nomination.
Aside from Kong, Watts has a busy slate ahead of her. Already in the pipeline are a reunion with Penn for The Assassination of Richard Nixon, a starring role in David O. Russell's comedy I Hate Huckabee's, the drama Stay with Ewan McGregor and a sequel to The Ring.
Jackson's final Lord of the Rings installment, The Return of the King, hits theaters December 17. Thanks to his Rings success, Jackson commanded a whopping $20 million paycheck to helm the monster remake, the richest upfront directing deal ever.
The filmmaker will reteam with wife and longtime writing and producing partner Fran Walsh and their LOTR collaborator Philippa Boyens for Kong, which is already in preproduction. The trio will share 20 percent of the film's gross once it recoups its initial production costs.
Jackson is scheduled to start shooting King Kong next August in his native New Zealand. The would-be blockbuster is scheduled to hit theaters by Christmas 2005.
Naomi Watts and Heath: It's Over ?
Naomi Watts isn't getting The Ring, but at least she won't have to worry about Le Divorce.
She and her fellow acting Aussie actor beau, Heath Ledger, have broken up after 16 months together.
Ledger rep Susan Patricola confirmed to E! News Live Tuesday that the pair had parted but declined to comment further. However, Kate Ledger, Heath's sister and publicist, issued a statement from Australia indicating that the split was work-related.
"Heath and Naomi have made the decision to go their separate ways," she said. "At this time in their lives, both are busy pursuing careers, which are taking them in different directions. They remain close friends."
The former twosome have been living apart of late; Watts has been shacking up in New York, filming the thriller, Stay, with Ewan McGregor, while Ledger has been working in Prague on The Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon.
The two first met on the set of the Aussie outlaw film Ned Kelly, where real-life sparks flew after the two played onscreen love interests. Though Ledger has been known to date older women, having previously dated Heather Graham, 33, the 10-year age difference between him and Watts made them popular tabloid fodder--the It Couple, Down Under division.
Suspicions about their relationship's well-being arose after Ledger, 24, was nowhere to be seen at Watts' recent 35th birthday bash in New York, where celeb pals Nicole Kidman and Lenny Kravitz showed up to wish Watts well.
Ledger first arrived on the Hollywood scene in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You, with Julia Stiles, and moved on to next-big-thing status following his role as Mel Gibson's son in 2000's The Patriot. Watts got her big break in David Lynch's eccentric mystery Mulholland Drivein 2001 and went on to star in 2002's hit thriller The Ring and this summer's Merchant-Ivory production Le Divorce.
Recently, Watts' career has been progressing at breakneck speed. One of Hollywood's busiest actresses, her upcoming projects include I Heart Huckabees, The Ring 2, We Don't Live Here Anymore and The Assassination of Richard Nixon. She's also the top choice of director Peter Jackson for the female lead in his upcoming remake of King Kong.
Ledger's career, on the other hand, seems to be foundering. He bombed the box office with last year's The Four Feathers, and his latest film, The Order, released in early September, was panned by critics and quickly vanished from theaters.