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NAOMI WATTS - THE INTERVIEW

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NAOMI WATTS - THE INTERVIEW

By Skye Huntington

Born in Shoreham, Kent, England this prolific actress has had a long road to get to the level of success she now enjoys. Her parents divorced when she was just four years old, and at the age of seven, she lost her dad to a heroin overdose. Her father, Peter Watts was a former road manager and sound man for Pink Floyd. When the band learned of his death, they put together a lump sum for Naomi’s family to get by after his passing. She lived in England until the age of 14 when she moved to Australia. After arriving she convinced her mother to let her take acting classes. On one audition for a bikini commercial, she met her future best friend, Nicole Kidman, and they shared a ride home after it. Numerous Australian TV appearances and movies followed. Nicole headed to Hollywood first, and many of her business contacts that Naomi got to meet encouraged her to do the same so she took a chance and came stateside.

The problem was the people who inspired her to leap suddenly didn’t seem to recognize her, and she struggled for a while. That was until 1999 when David Lynch cast her from an 8x10 and an interview for his newest TV series he was pitching called Mulholland
Drive
. They shot the pilot in February that year, keeping it open-ended for a series run. Unfortunately, the pilot was rejected. Lynch then decided to film an ending in October of 2000 turning it into a full-length motion picture. It was picked up for distribution and became a huge critical success. Mulholland Drive thrust Naomi into the spotlight, and she followed that up with a few other films. In 2002, she starred in one of the biggest hits of the year, The Ring, playing a journalist investigating the death of her nieces. The Gore Verbinski horror classic cemented her as a heavyweight in the entertainment industry.

Fifteen years later and her career doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Recently she starred in the memoir brought to life, Glass Castle, and the suspenseful Book of Henry. Naomi also stars in the new TwinPeaks in her long-awaited reunion with Lynch as well as Netflix’s Gypsy, which is about a voyeuristic therapist that Netflix ultimately pulled the plug on. We got a chance to sit down with this bright and candid actress, asking her about both projects, and what makes her choose a script.

STRIPLV: What drew you to The Glass Castle?

WATTS: I was familiar with it, but I hadn’t read it. I was one of the few who hadn’t. I quickly ran out and read it, and obviously, I read the script and thought it was an incredibly moving story, one that was very accessible for audiences. We all have a family, and we all come from a family and been affected by powerful events that took place while mixing it with these extraordinary characters. I was incredibly moved by it. When I read the book and heard Jeannette talk about the writing of the book and the experiences in great detail, it was fantastic. We sort of had this back and forth dialogue about all the different things that took place. Things that didn’t make it to the script that would help with my playing of Rose Mary. You end up just having this dialogue because you come close to these people. You talk about your own experiences and how they make sense to you in the ones that you are about to play. Also connecting with Rose Mary and really falling in love with her spirit and how she managed to prevail with this incredibly optimistic spirit, which really kept them from falling apart many times.

STRIPLV: Tell me about Rose Mary Walls story.

WATTS: There is an extra challenge of bringing it from the pages to real life. You want to honor their story in the most empathetic way and truthful way. I think the Rose Mary character has been misunderstood. I talked about that with Jeannette. Even some of the interviews available out there on the Internet spoke to that. They didn’t like that she was this kind of mother. I wanted to make sure that I could play that with the right amount of empathy and that meant really understanding who Rose Mary was, and getting into her mindset.

STRIPLV: How was it working with the director Destin Daniel Cretton?

WATTS: Destin creates the most beautiful, fantastic and fun environment. He gives everybody their special moment no matter big or small it is. He lets them roll with it. He’s so up for the fun and games. I mean some of the times it felt like we were all just in a big acting class together, and we would just get to experiment. He lets you just go, even if it’s wildly over the top or something incredibly subtle, he’s there’s for it. I loved working with Destin.  He brings so much to the table. What happened during the film production was that we all ended up talking about our own families. The fun, the pain, and it became sort of a cathartic experience for all of us.

STRIPLV: Rose Mary’s character has a lot of dynamics to it. Tell us more about playing the part.

WATTS: That makes her so human and fun to play. You don’t want to just play something on one note. In the opening moments of the film, you see her daughter ask her to make her lunch, and she responds “You go make it, and make some for me when you’re at it.” And that’s not what you’re used to when you’re watching a mother. And you can be quick to judge, but I wanted to show that there were things about Rose Mary that were, yes different, but she gave other things that were incredibly powerful as well, and that meant a sense of self-worth and believe in yourself and don’t change who you are and don’t hide, just be you. There was never any lack of love no matter how many difficulties they went through. She had a playful and positive spirit at all times.

STRIPLV: How was it working with Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson?

WATTS: Woody is fantastic. He’s brought his experience from his family and experienced pain and ups and downs as well. We all had a way to relate to this family. We’re all creative people, and there was a lot of creativity, and that was a driving force in Rose Mary’s nature and the same with Rex. And Brie she’s just so powerful to watch. The first day she had just gotten her Oscar, and she was just so present. She didn’t have any lines that day, but just what went on behind her eyes was incredibly powerful and magnetic and so raw. She’s a really wonderful actress.

STRIPLV: What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?

WATTS: I think there are lots of different themes going on, but I think forgiveness. And the survival aspect that we can through these difficult times and own who we are, however different.

STRIPLV: Let’s talk about The Book of Henry.

WATTS: I played Susan, the mother of two boys, one of which is a genius, who is taking care of a lot of the responsibilities. Which you never want as a parent. They are two very special boys. There are some great suspenseful moments, great thrilling moments, great laughs and a lot of emotion and it’s a very cathartic experience. I loved this character when I read the script, but I also like how it changed tones. You can’t place it, and you can’t put it in a box. In many ways, it’s a fun movie, and then it gets very sad. There are some lovely relationships between the boys, and then my character becomes kind of a bad ass! (Laughing) Colin Trevorrow, the director, is highly accomplished and he handled the character and human emotion aspects of the film as well as scope and excitement brilliantly. We got to do some fun stunts as well as some complicated dramatic scenes as well.

STRIPLV: I thought Maddie Ziegler was just spectacular in the film.

WATTS: She was just fantastic. And I was told she had never acted in a film before, which was kind of mind-blowing. She is just so expressive through her physicality and her dance. It was wonderful to see her do another form of storytelling. She’s a complete natural. She’s fully connected, and it’s not surprising really when you see her move on the stage as a dancer. It makes perfect sense that she can do just the same as an actor in the acting world.

STRIPLV: What is your process in deciding which roles to take on?

WATTS: It’s just whatever speaks to me. You read a script. Does it come off the page? Does it land in your gut?

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