Jose here to talk about Naomi Watts. She's having a great month. First, she won Best Actress nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes for her work in The Impossible (opening today!). Then she got a hell of an endorsement from Reese Witherspoon who promised she'd "tap dance on Sunset Blvd." to get her an Oscar for this movie. If other people in Hollywood start feeling she's as good as Meryl in Sophie's Choice (Reese's words) Naomi's stars might be finally aligning for a statuette.
Earlier this week I attended a preview screening of The Impossible (hosted as part of 92Y's Reel Pieces series) which was preceded by a Q&A with Watts. She discussed working with green screens, working with boy wonder Tom Holland (nominated for Best Young Actor at the "Critics Choice" Awards) and spent a surprising amount of time discussing her work in Mulholland Dr. But, hey, a lot of us have been talking about that for years as well!
[Mulholland Dr, King Kong and The Impossible after the jump]
Watts was interviewed by scholar Annette Insdorf, who chose some very peculiar moments of Watts' career as part of the clip reel (that scene where she practically forces Samuel L. Jackson to have sex with her in Mother and Child ?) all of which helped display the actress' versatility and prove that Watts remains one of the industry's most underrated actresses.
Remember that great audition scene in Mulholland Dr. that gave us goosebumps eleven years ago? Watts talked about "magic" occurring in actual auditions and then during that scene.
Each time an actor reads a script there's usually one scene that just explodes off the page and explains the whole reason why you have to do it.
David likes to keep things a mystery. I remember watching his face [when the audition scene was shot] and he was delighted...I just felt like there was magic in the room.
This must have come as a relief considering her admittance that she wasn't entirely sure what the movie was about and wasn't confident about her work...
I was sure I was doing the worst performance to ever hit the screen"
In The Impossible, the actress plays Maria, a character based on a real woman who survived the Thailand tsunami. This isn't the first time Watts has played a living person, when asked about the way this changes her work she replied that she gets very invested in what happened to the people.
It's not always that characters stay with you, but in this case yes, Maria stayed with me and I will always feel connected to her. When you're in her presence you're just inspired, she has this great positive energy, she's always present, alway's in the moment."
Next up Watts is playing Princess Diana in a new biopic. She revealed the movie will take place during a period of Diana's life where she was "in a good place" having an intense romance with a doctor.
Every character comes with a different kind of pressure, Princess Diana was an enormous pressure because everybody feels they know her. Right away you're throwing yourself into the fear of public opinion, I don't know how I said yes to that but I couldn't say no, it was a story that had to be told because what the media did to her was unforgivable."
After Lady Di, Watts could play the most iconic film figure of all time, Marilyn Monroe, in Andrew Dominik's take on Joyce Carol Oates' Blonde. She describes it as a possibility still. Blonde is not, according to Naomi, a traditional biopic, "it's quite stylized and twisted".
But most of the discussion detailed her new tsunami survival drama. The Impossible was quite a demanding movie in terms of the physical toll it took on its actors, especially Watts. "I said to myself after King Kong that I would never do anything as active as that again" she added, but after reading the screenplay to this movie she put all the fear to the side, "it's like childbirth, you forget".
Shooting took place over 25 weeks in 60 different sets and featured almost no CGI. "All the physical stuff was incredibly difficult, there was no CGI, you are truly gasping for air" she explained, then adding "it was very old school and I think the decision to do it that way was there was no money to do the CGI".
This meant a completely different process than her work in Peter Jackson's King Kong.
I spent about a month on the stage doing all the green screen stuff and I had full grown stunt men banging up against me or poking me with sticks with giant polysterene fingers pretending they were King Kong's hand or god knows what..."
In The Impossible she had a moment where the realness of the effects almost put her life in danger...
All of the water stuff was scary but you did feel safe. But there was an underwater scene where I got trapped in a chair that was spinning. I had to release myself when I was out of breath and just as I was about to release myself, the chair started spinning in the other direction and I thought 'the director is trying to get more fear out of me' and it turned out that it was a technical malfunction."
Throughout the interview Watts was very eloquent while sharing great anecdotes. She raved about Tom Holland (recently nominated for Best Young Actor at the "Critics Choice Awards") but curiously never mentioned Ewan McGregor, her screen husband, which is perhaps a sign of things to come in terms of awards. The most rewarding element for me, though, was the movie itself. Contrary to what that trailer suggests it is not a big tearjerker as much as it's a movie about the horrors involved in trying to stay alive. Watts is extraordinary in the film and for someone who should have at least four Oscar nominations by now, it'll be great to hear her name being called on January 10th.
Are you a fan of Naomi's work? How would you try to convince her that her performance in Mulholland Dr. wasn't "the worst performance to ever hit the screen"?