Naomi Watts would have made a terrible a spy. Chatty to the point of confessional, the actress may play a very convincing CIA agent in the movies, but in person it’s a completely different story. Like many a working mother she is often wracked with guilt at being away from her young sons, but still very grateful for all that her chosen profession has given her, including two Oscar® nominations, a Golden Globe and over 40 major international awards.
“At times I feel, “oh I can really manage all of this” and then there are days when you feel like you’re failing at everything on every level, but that’s the same quandary every mother faces,” she says, shrugging.
Watts’ road to fame and the A list was a protracted one and far from certain. Born in England, she was the daughter of the Pink Floyd sound engineer Peter Watts, whose manic laugh kicks off The Dark Side of the Moon. When he died she was only seven and she and her Welsh mother moved to Australia.
She paid her dues for many years in small roles in an assortment of movies, while watching her best friend Nicole Kidman command the spotlight, helped in part by the visibility she gained as Tom Cruise’s other half. Her real breakthrough in Hollywood came in 2001 thanks to David Lynch casting her in Mulholland Drive as an ingénue trying to break through in the world of acting in LA.
“To make it was a long struggle, and so I take nothing for granted. I am very appreciative and very aware and also I’m older, you know? It didn’t happen to me in my twenties, so I’m smart enough to know that there’s always someone to replace you and it can go away.” For his part Lynch said that casting her was a no brainer for him. “I saw someone who had a beautiful soul, an intelligence for a lot of different roles and a tremendous talent, so it was a beautiful package.”
Since Mulholland Drive, Watts has made consistently edgy and interesting choices, such as the Aussei indie Ned Kelly with Heath Ledger and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams which won her her first Oscar® nomination. She subsequently appeared in David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees alongside Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin and reprised Fay Wray’s classic role in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. She starred in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises and worked with Leonardo di Caprio in Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar. She also did a rare comic role in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
Watts was in a relationship for two years with the late Heath Ledger, who was 11 years her junior. Since 2006, she and Liev Schreiber are together, after meeting on the set of The Painted Veil. They have two sons, Alexander and Samuel. Like a number of other celebrity couples, they alternate working, so that they are able to travel and be together as a family.
Given the ages of the boys, both Watts and Schreiber usually have them on set in their trailers, so much so that the boys think their parents are gypsies. “They think I work in a trailer,” she laughs. “They think that’s Mommy and Daddy’s office. They’ll see a trailer on the street and they’ll say “look, there’s your work!”