Naomi Watts is busy juggling two children, and a busy film career and even after giving birth very recently, the Australian actress still finds time to talk movies and motherhood with Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Her latest film is “The International”, in which Interpol Agent Louis Salinger [Clive Owen] and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman [Watts] are determined to bring to justice one of the world’s most powerful banks.
Uncovering illegal activities including money laundering, arms trading, and the destabilization of governments, Salinger and Whitman’s investigation takes them from Berlin to Milan to New York and to Istanbul.
Finding themselves in a high-stakes chase across the globe, their relentless tenacity puts their own lives at risk as the bank will stop at nothing – even murder – to continue financing terror and war.
Question: It seems to me that your choices of films are not all the time necessarily based on a script, perhaps, but maybe based on who is involved. Was it more the idea of working with Tom Tykwer, than it was for you to do a studio thriller such as this?
Watts: I mean, yes. Certainly that’s one of the most important elements for me, I think – I mean, like, Funny Games, for instance. That script wasn’t compelling me in the way that other scripts were, but it’s the director that made me want to do it. But this one, there were many elements. Tom is a great director, I’ve loved his work before and it’s a good thriller. I loved how it moved well, I loved that it was about big, important stuff. And Clive, obviously, too, is a great part of the decision-making.
Question: Is this the kind of movie where you do research? Or do you just decide to let it all – it’s all there on the page for you, and you don’t worry about it?
Watts: No, I did meet with a district attorney in New York. And Tom gave me all those movies. Then he also gave me a bunch of literature that was out there, about similar cases that I read, but this was a well-written script, and the words are obviously there on the page, as well. So.
Question: I guess there’s a lot of physical stuff in this movie that you have to do. Did you find that very taxing, so shortly after giving birth to your first child?
Watts: There wasn’t as much – thankfully, I didn’t have as much as Clive, you know? And that was, again, part of the decision-making. If I had Clive’s part, I couldn’t have done it. The fact that it was just five weeks, and it wasn’t too emotional. It wasn’t like one of the harrowing roles that I’ve been through before. I was able to sort of finish my day, and then go back to my baby. There were some physical big moments, but nothing like King Kong or anything.
Question: It seems to me that she’s also a very reactive character. I mean, she’s a lot of the times reacting to events that are around her.
Watts: Yeah. She wasn’t driving it.
Question: Was it important for you – was it good to do something like that?
Watts: Yeah. It was good to do a support role, yeah. That’s what I felt I could handle at that time. That’s all I was up for.
Question: Does it make you want to do more films that are less emotionally taxing than a lot of the stuff you did before this?
Watts: I think yeah. There’s something to be said for being able to spend time with your family, but I don’t think I’m someone who could give up entirely – I love what I do. But I am facing a struggle right now. I’m sort of starting to come back to work. Even this I call work, you know? There’s some traveling for me to promote this film, and sometimes it feels like it’s in the way, because you want to be with your baby. But I love what I do and it’s part of my job, so I try to find the balance.
Question: And trying to strive for that balance, which you’ve never had to do before, where your priorities were always your work, really.
Watts: Yeah, it’s all very new. And it’s new again, having had a second child.
Question: And how is all that going? Is it easier the second time around?
Watts: Not yet. [LAUGHTER] I think – everyone says it gets easier. And I look forward to that time. But right now, you know, like, when I’m feeding every three hours all through the night, and then my toddler wants to be chased all day long – or, has to be chased all day long. You know, because he’s an inch away from his death every moment, it feels like. [LAUGHTER] You know, he’s climbing onto something, or poking his fingers onto something, and about to swallow something. And so he requires incredibly focus and energy.
Question: At this time of your life, are you, do you think, at the happiest stage of your life, both personally and professionally?
Watts: Certainly. I mean, being a Mum – and I still can’t believe it, t’s something I wanted for so long, and I’m finally there. And not Mum to one, but two now. It’s fantastic. It’s mind-blowing. And I’m going back to work next week, I’m doing ten days on a little film called Mother and Child.
Question: What is that?
Watts: Rodrigo Garcia is directing it, Annette Bening is playing my mother. She was 14 when she had me. Samuel Jackson and Kerry Washington. And it’s a beautiful story, and just a wonderful piece of writing. I didn’t know a huge amount about Rodrigo’s work. But this is very much about the script. Alejandro gave it to me. And, but then, of course, the work that I’ve seen of his was fantastic. I love Rodrigo’s work. But, yeah. I mean, I’m still nursing, and I call it a lactose lobotomy, so I have to go back to work hoping to God I’ll remember my dialogue.
Question: You’re supposed to have been doing this movie, Need, with Nicole that’s been around for a little while. Is that ever going to happen? She mentioned retiring from acting recently.
Watts: Well, I don’t think that’s going to be the movie just yet. And it’s something that we talked about, but the script needed work. And I think it’s not there yet. We’ll see. We definitely want to do something together. I don’t know about her retiring. But I can totally relate to – you know, this feeling of, ” Take me out of the work arena” for a while, when you become a new Mum. It’s all you want to think about, your new baby.
Question: I was saddened to hear of your agent, John Cann’s, death. What influence or impact do you think he’s had on your life and career?
NAOMI WATTS: Oh, a massive one. I mean, basically, he was the first person to take me on. He hadn’t seen my work. We met via John Duigan. He sent me there – I had done that little tiny role in Flirting and I met with John, and we got on very, very well. I was 19 and then he just sort of – he becomes like a chaperone. He’s not just an agent. He’s looking after you.
I mean, this is the guy that would pick me up from the airport at 6:00 in the morning, every time I came into Sydney. He insisted on doing it. And that ride in in his Rambler, was just the most brilliant way to enter Australia. It’s almost like – I feel like – you know, I’m scared to go back the next time, because I won’t have that.
Question: I know, it’s awful. I mean, it’s such a loss to the industry, and a loss to so many people. Really, really upsetting.
Watts: Hang on. I’m just feeding my baby.
Watts: But go ahead, sorry.
QUESTION: Now is The Birds going to happen, do you think?
Watts: No, it will happen. It’s absolutely going to happen. And it’s something that Universal has a lot invested in, and so they’re going to make sure the script is right, and take their time with it. Martin Campbell’s directing in, and he’s very involved in it.
Question: Do you have a start date?
Watts: No, we don’t have a start date, but it could be the end of this year.
Question: So, between Mother and Child and that, will you take time off? Or are you looking for something?
Watts: I don’t know yet. We’ll see. Nothing’s real until it’s real, especially in today’s climate.
Question: Does the Australian press treat you shamefully, or do they leave you alone when you guys are back?
Watts: No, I think the paparazzi has gotten kind of worse all over the world, not just LA and New York. But I think certainly there seem to be more people doing that job, that hideous job. But there’s nothing spectacular about my life, really, so the only times that it’s been sort of slightly out of control is when I’m pregnant, or when the new baby comes.