London Film Festival: Naomi Watts Screentalk
Last night saw Naomi Watts interviewed for a Screentalk at the London Film Festival.
The discussion took in Mulholland Drive, Funny Games and Eastern Promises, as well as Naomi's background and her experiences of producing. Suchandrika Chakrabarti reports
Naomi also gave us a fine impression of David Lynch directing her while she was in a full bunny suit, unable to see or breathe. She ended up walking into walls and an ironing board as he yelled at her.
Her partner Liev Schreiber was in the audience and got a few shout-outs from her onstage, especially when she was pressed on whether she would move to London to live.
She also felt compelled to say "I'm not this dark twisted person!" Find out why below...
Where do you feel most at home?
I always get in trouble when I answer that question! I was born in England and lived here the first 14 years of my life… I bribed my mum into letting me go to drama classes if we went to Australia.
When did you first want to become an actress?
I was about five and my mum was onstage in Pygmalion. I felt transported into this world of make-believe [when she waved at me].
How did you become friends with Nicole Kidman?
[They met on the set of a commercial] Neither of us got the job. We shared a taxi home and sort of became friends.
Is Hollywood sometimes a lonely place?
It is a lonely place. Geographically, it is spread out. It’s a one-industry town… even social meetings can be about work. Nicole was like the pioneer for the Aussies out there.
Why did David Lynch choose you for Mulholland Drive?
He’s so cryptic! He would never give me an answer. He works from a very intuitive place… he responded to my head shot… my brother took it. I didn’t audition for the part. I remember feeling quite awkward in the initial meeting, because he was asking all these questions. I wasn’t used to that!
How did it begin on Mulholland Drive?
It was going to be a TV series, then it sat on the shelf for two years.. Lynch came back to me a year and half later and said, we’re going to make this into a film.
What are your reactions to watching your own performances?
Most of the time, I feel like, oh shit, this is not going to work! You can never judge how a film’s going to end up on the day [of filming].
Is Mulholland Drive an accurate reflection of Hollywood?
When I first went to LA, I was blown away by how the people were. I come here and everyone is virtually wetting their pants for me. So I go back to Australia and pack my bags, come back… and its like, oh, hi, you again.
Is there a lot of insincerity in Hollywood?
Yeah, you can run into it. I’m not out there hustling so much now. The phone does ring, some good directors have invited me to work with them.
Is there one director you love working with the most?
I do love directors, the film industry is a director’s medium. It is important to put yourselves in the hands of someone who know what they are doing.
Would you want to direct?
I’d love to direct… but I’m not very good at making decisions!
You must have worked the best with one director.
David and Alejando [Iñárritu] probably. David gave me that fantastic role in Mulholland. Those roles were so great and so dynamic.
You didn’t read the script before accepting the role in 21 Grams?
Correct. It was just an instant yes. When I got the script, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
What did you draw on for the role?
I lost my father when I was seven and that was difficult – but everyone has experienced some kind of sadness. Losing a parent as a child is a difficult experience.
Was the process of playing such a sad role traumatic?
The older I get, the more important I feel it is to turn off at the end of the day. People say, why don’t you do something lighter? Finding a good comedy is difficult. I’m not the go-to girl for romantic comedy. The quirkier ones like I Heart Huckabee’s, yeah. The ones that are a little mad. I’m not this dark twisted person! It’s the comedians who are the ones who end up with all the problems.
How have you found producing?
Yeah, I just want that fancy credit! It is about being more involved in creative decisions. Ellie Parker was self-financed. Other times, it has been about finding the right cast members.
Have you ever had an argument with a director?
I’ve had heated discussions, definitely. You might pick a fight with a director to get you there – rile up. A good director will help you get there, then go, okay, roll! With producers, the fights are just, let me go home now!
What is it like for women in Hollywood?
The rule is that the work’s meant to be all dried by the time you reach late 30s, early 40s. I feel that’s all changed. The roles are actually getting more interesting.
What do you think of the violence in Eastern Promises?
I’m definitely hiding my eyes in one or two moments in that movie! That’s what’s great about Cronenberg, he does take it to that level. There are only two or three moments of such violence; the rest of the time, it’s just fraught with tension. It’s arch and it’s stylised.
How was it filming Eastern Promises while pregnant?
I had never ridden a motorbike before. David is a massive motorbike enthusiast! By the time we got to the last two scenes, I had the guts to tell David; by that point I was 11 or 12 weeks pregnant. I am very much more cautious now, after my fall in King Kong. I’m not gonna try to be a hero too much now.
Tell us about the remake of Funny Games.
Director Michael Hanneke is someone I think whose work will be studied in years to come. I saw the original and was extremely disturbed. I liked that it was fucking with you, the viewer. You can say it deeply affected me and got under my skin. The shot-for-shot remake felt so inorganic – it’s just how Michael works. There’s something about me that likes to be pushed and annoyed by a director. I like to be told.
This is an edited transcript of the interview.
For more info, see the LFF site