Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts
Naomi Watts

Watts at the 2007 London Film Festival premiere of Eastern Promises
Born Naomi Ellen Watts
28 September 1968 (1968-09-28) (age 43)
Shoreham, Kent, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 1986–present
Partner Liev Schreiber
(m. 2005–present; 2 children)
Children 2

Naomi Ellen Watts (born 28 September 1968) is a British actress. Watts began her career in Australian television, where she appeared in series such as Hey Dad..! (1990), Brides of Christ (1991), and Home and Away (1991). Her film debut was the 1986 drama For Love Alone. Her following portrayals included roles in B-class movies, such as the 1996 horror film Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering, as well as roles in television and independent films.

Watts gained critical acclaim following her work in David Lynch's 2001 psychological thriller Mulholland Drive, starring alongside Justin Theroux and Laura Harring. The next year, she received public recognition for her participation in the box office hit horror film The Ring. In 2004, she received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress as well as for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Cristina Peck in Alejandro González Iñárritu's 2003 drama 21 Grams, alongside Sean Penn. Other film roles include the 2005 remake of King Kong, the 2006 remake of The Painted Veil, the 2007 thriller Eastern Promises, and the 2009 thriller The International.

In 2002, she was included in People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People. In 2006, Watts became a goodwill ambassador for Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, which helps to raise awareness of AIDS-related issues. She has participated in several fundraisers for the cause, and she is presented as an inaugural member of AIDS Red Ribbon Awards.


Early life and education

Watts was born in Shoreham, Kent, England. She is the daughter of Myfanwy Edwards (née Roberts), a Welsh antiques dealer and costume and set designer,[1] and Peter Watts, an English road manager and sound engineer who worked with Pink Floyd.[2][3] Her parents separated when she was four years old.[3][4] After the divorce, Watts and her brother, Ben, were raised by their grandparents and three aunts, as well as her mother. Watts' mother relocated the family several times around Wales and England, in most cases to be near a new boyfriend. Peter Watts left Pink Floyd in 1974, and he and Myfanwy were later reconciled. Two years later, in August 1976, he was found dead in his flat of Notting Hill of an apparent heroin overdose.[5]

Following his death, Watts' mother moved the family to Llanfawr Farm, on Anglesey in North Wales, where they lived with Watts's maternal grandparents, Nikki and Hugh Roberts. During this time, she attended a Welsh language school, Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni, where she carried out her studies for several years.[6] Watts described her mother (also an actress) as a hippie "with passive-aggressive tendencies" and no money, who used to threaten to send her and her brother to foster care in order to get her parents to provide for them.[7]

Watts has stated that she wanted to become an actress since she watched the 1980 film Fame.[8] Watts moved to Australia with her mother and brother when she was 14, during the early 1980s (her maternal grandmother was Australian).[3][9] Her mother worked as a stylist for television commercials, then turning to costume designing, ultimately working for the soap opera Return To Eden. Watts was enrolled in acting lessons by her mother. She also auditioned for television advertising.[5]

She attended Mosman High School and North Sydney Girls' High School, where she was a classmate of actress Nicole Kidman.[10] Watts failed to graduate from school, after working as a papergirl, a negative cutter, and managing a Delicacies store in Sydney's north shore. She decided to become a model when she was 18. She signed with a models agency that sent her to Japan, but after several failed auditions she returned to Sydney.[3] There, she was hired to work in advertising for a department store, that exposed her to the attention of Follow Me, a magazine which hired her as an assistant fashion editor.[5] A casual invitation to participate in a drama workshop returned Watts to acting, and prompted her to quit her job and to seek to succeed as an actress.[11]

Regarding her nationality, Watts has stated: "I consider myself British and have very happy memories of the UK. I spent the first 14 years of my life in England and Wales and never wanted to leave. When I was in Australia I went back to England a lot."[12] She also has expressed her nationalism for Australia, declaring: "I consider myself very Australian and very connected to Australia, in fact when people say where is home, I say Australia, because those are my most powerful memories."[13]


Early work, 1986–2000

Watts's career began in Australian television, where she made brief appearances in commercials.[9] The 1986 drama For Love Alone, set in the 1930s and based on Christina Stead's 1945 best-seller novel of the same name, marked her debut in film.[14] The director John Duigan invited her to take a supporting role in his 1991 indie film, Flirting, during the 1989 premiere of Dead Calm,[9] after a five years absence in film.[15] She was starred opposite future Hollywood up-and-comers Nicole Kidman and Thandie Newton. The movie received critical acclaim and was featured on Roger Ebert's list of the 10 best movies of 1992.[16] The same year, she took the part of Frances Heffernan, a girl who struggles to find friends behind the walls of a Sydney Catholic school,[17] in the award winning mini-series[18] Brides of Christ, and appeared in four episodes of Home and Away.[19] In 1993 she appeared in another of Duigan's pictures, Wide Sargasso Sea.

The difficulty at finding agents, producers and directors during the transition from Australia to Los Angeles frustrated her initial efforts. Her financial situation led her to take a job out of the film industry, when experiencing problems like being unable to pay the rent of her apartment and losing her medical insurance.[5] After a small role in the 1993 comedy picture Matinee, which featured John Goodman in the leading role, she landed the supporting role of "Jet Girl" in the futuristic 1995 film Tank Girl.[20]

Throughout the rest of the decade, she took supporting roles on television, including the series Sleepwalkers,[21] and numerous B-list productions, such Children of the Corn IV, in which children in a small town become possessed under the command of a wrongfully murdered child preacher[3] and Bermuda Triangle, where she played a former documentary filmmaker who disappears in the Bermuda Triangle,.[22] Much of her early career is filled with near misses in casting, as she was up for significant roles in films such as the 1997 The Postman and Meet the Parents, which eventually went to other actresses.[23] In Dangerous Beauty, she played Giulia De Lezze.[9] In 1999, she played Alice in the romantic comedy Strange Planet and the Texan student Holly Maddux in The Hunt For The Unicorn Killer.[24][25]


Watts with filmmaker David Lynch at the Cannes Film Festival, 2001

Director David Lynch interviewed Watts, without having seeing any of her previous work,[26] for his psychological thriller Mulholland Drive. The film, which also starred Justin Theroux and Laura Harring, was highly acclaimed by critics and would become Watts' breakthrough. Lynch stated about his selection of Watts, "I saw someone that I felt had a tremendous talent, and I saw someone who had a beautiful soul, an intelligence—possibilities for a lot of different roles, so it was a beautiful full package."[27] The film premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and received a large number of awards and nominations, including the Best Actress distinction for Watts from the National Society of Film Critics and the American Film Institute.[28] The surrealist film following the story of the aspiring actress Betty Elms (Watts) attracted controversy with its strong lesbian theme.[29][30] She was praised by the critics, including Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian, who wrote, "Watts's face metamorphoses miraculously from fresh-faced beauty to a frenzied, teary scowl of ugliness. She must surely be a favourite for the best actress Academy award.",[31] and Emanuel Levy, who wrote, "[...]Naomi Watts, in a brilliant performance, a young, wide-eyed and grotesquely cheerful blonde, full of high hopes to make it big in Hollywood."[32]

In 2002, she starred in one of the biggest box office hits of that year, the English language remake of the Japanese horror film The Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski. The film, which also starred Martin Henderson and Brian Cox, grossed around US$129 million domestically (equivalent to US$157.5 million in 2011).[33] The film received favourable reviews; Watts portrayed Rachel Keller, a journalist investigating the strange deaths of her niece and other teenagers after watching a mysterious videotape, and receiving a phone call announcing their deaths in seven days.[34] Her performance was praised by critics, including Paul Clinton of, who stated that she "is excellent in this leading role, which proves that her stellar performance in Mulholland Drive was not a fluke. She strikes a perfect balance between scepticism and the slow realisation of the truth in regard to the deadly power of the videotape."[35]

The following year, she took the part of Julia Cook in Gregor Jordan's Australian film Ned Kelly opposite Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush,[36] as well as the Merchant-Ivory film Le Divorce portraying Roxeanne de Persand, a poet who is abandoned by her husband Charles-Henri de Persand at the time she is pregnant. Roxeanne and her sister Isabel (Kate Hudson) dispute the ownership of a painting by Georges de la Tour with the family of Henri's lover. Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C" rating and lamented Watts' performance: "I'm disappointed to report that Hudson and Watts have no chemistry as sisters, perhaps because Watts never seems like the expatriate artiste she's supposed to be playing".[37]

Her performance opposite Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro in director Alejandro González Iñárritu's 2003 drama 21 Grams earned Watts her first Academy Award nomination as Best Actress later that year.[38] In the story, told in a non-lineal manner, she portrayed Cristina Peck, a grief-stricken woman living a suburban life after the killing of her husband and two children by Jack Jordan (Benicio del Toro), who started a relationship with the critically ill academic mathematician Paul Rivers (Sean Penn). She said of the nomination, "It's far beyond what I ever dreamed for – that would have been too far fetched".[39] She also was nominated for Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, as well as many other nominations and acclaim.[40] The New York Times praised her: "Because Ms. Watts reinvents herself with each performance, it's easy to forget how brilliant she is. She has a boldness that comes from a lack of overemphasis, something actresses sometimes do to keep up with Mr. Penn".[41] The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Watts is riveting, but she's much better in scenes of extreme emotion than in those requiring subtlety."[42]

She produced and starred alongside Mark Ruffalo in the well-received 2004 independent film We Don't Live Here Anymore, directed by John Curran. Watts played Edith Evans. The film is a drama which was based on the short stories We Don't Live Here Anymore and Adultery by Andre Dubus, and depicts the crisis of two married couples.[43] She reunited with Sean Penn in The Assassination of Richard Nixon, which was set in 1974. She played Marie Andersen Bicke, the wife of the would-be presidential assassin Samuel J. Bicke (Penn).[44] The same year, she also teamed up with Jude Law and Dustin Hoffman in David O. Russell's ensemble comedy I Heart Huckabees.[45]


In 2005, Watts starred and co-produced with director/screenwriter Scott Coffey her next film, the semi-autobiographical drama Ellie Parker, which depicted the struggle of an Australian actress in Hollywood.[46] Movie critic Roger Ebert praised Watts' performance: "The character is played by Watts with courage, fearless observation, and a gift for timing that is so uncanny it can make points all by itself."[47]

Watts returned in the lead role in the sequel to the Ring, The Ring Two. The film received several negative reviews,[48] but was a major success at the box office, with a over US$161 million worldwide gross (equivalent to US$181.1 million in 2011).[49] She starred in the 2005 remake of King Kong as Ann Darrow. The role, portrayed by Fay Wray in the original film, proved to be Watts' most commercially successful film yet. Helmed by The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, the film won high praise and grossed US$550 million worldwide (equivalent to US$618.7 million in 2011).[50][51] The Seattle Post-Intelligencer praised her performance: "The third act becomes a star-crossed, "Beauty and the Beast" parable far more operatic and tragic than anything the original filmmakers could have imagined exquisitely pantomimed by Watts with a poignancy and passion that rates Oscar consideration."[52]

About the evolution of her portrayals, Watts stated: "You'd better know why you're here as an actor ... I'm here to work out my shit, what my problems are and know who I am, so by cracking open these characters perhaps that shines a light on it a little bit better ... I know myself. I mean, of course I know myself better but the journey and search continue because hopefully we're evolving and growing all the time.[53]

Watts starred in the 2006 remake of the 1934 film The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Liev Schreiber. Watts played in the film Kitty Garstin, the daughter of a prominent scientist, that marries Walter Fane (Norton) for his reputation as a physician and bacteriologist. The movie centers in the relationship of the couple at the time they move to China, were Fane is stationed to study infectious diseases.[54] Comparing her portrayal with Greta Garbo's in the original movie, The San Francisco Chronicle wrote "Watts makes the role work on her own terms — her Kitty is more desperate, more foolish, more miserable and more driven ... and her spiritual journey is greater.[55]

Also that year, she provided the voice of a small role, Suzie Rabbit, in the psychological thriller film Inland Empire.[56] The following year, she appeared in David Cronenberg's crime thriller Eastern Promises with Viggo Mortensen. The film was released to critical acclaim for the film itself and for her performance.[57] A moderate box office success, it grossed US$56 million worldwide (equivalent to US$63 million in 2011).[58] Critic Matthew Turner of View London wrote that Watts "strikes an intriguing balance between strength and emotional vulnerability."[57]

In 2008, she appeared in Funny Games, a 2008 remake of the 1997 Austrian film by director Michael Haneke, alongside Tim Roth. In the film, she portrayed Ann Farber, who with her husband and son are held hostage by a pair of sociopathic teenagers. The film opened on 20 October 2007 at the London Film Festival.[59]


Watts at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2009, Watts starred alongside Clive Owen the political thriller The International. She played a Manhattan assistant district attorney who partners with the titular agent to take down a bank.[60] During an interview, Watts commented on her role: "She was operating in this fast-moving world and was a great bouncing board for her colleague, Salinger, but also trying to balance that with motherhood as well, and I think I definitely relate to that now and hopefully other career mothers will too."[61] The International was well received by critics,[62] and grossed over US$60 million (equivalent to $61.5 million in 2011). worldwide.[63]

She next appeared in the American drama Mother and Child, which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.[64] She portrayed the role of Elizabeth, a lawyer who never knew her biological mother. Watts co-starred the movie along with Annette Bening, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson.[65] Mother and Child received several favourable reviews, and Watts' performance was praised by Tom Long of Detroit News, who stated that she "has the ability to make such a ragged transition somehow work."[66] She was nominated for the "Best Actress" award at the Australian Film Institute Awards.[67] Watts was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the category of Best Supporting Female.[68]

Her next movie, the Woody Allen comedy You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, opened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2010.[69] She portrayed Sally, a woman who has a troubled marriage with author Roy (played by Josh Brolin). Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch and Anthony Hopkins also co-starred in the film, which received mixed reviews from critics[70] and grossed over US$26 (equivalent to $26 million in 2011).[71]

She starred in the film Fair Game, which opened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, and was later released in the United States on 5 November 2010.[72] Based on Valerie Plame's memoir, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, also marks the third pairing of Watts with Sean Penn after 21 Grams and The Assassination of Richard Nixon.[73] Watts was nominated for the Satellite Award for Best Actress for her performance in Fair Game.[74] Boxoffice magazine wrote: "Watts doesn't get the big emotional scenes that have characterized much of her past work, instead she plays Valerie as a woman suddenly in a corner when her identity goes public. It's brilliantly understated and admirable work."[75]

In January 2010, she was cast in the thriller film Dream House, which was released in September 2011. Directed by Jim Sheridan, Watts starred in the film along with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz.[76] In October 2010, it was announced that Watts had landed the role of Marilyn Monroe in the film Blonde, which was set to start shooting in January 2011, but has been delayed.[77] In early 2011, Watts was cast in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the starring role. Watts will play Edgar's secretary Helen Gandy.[78] Watts is also scheduled to star in the remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Due to her frequent portrayals in film revivals, the press has labelled her the "queen of remakes".[79] Watts has stated that there have only been "discussions" about the remake.[80]

Personal life

Watts with her partner Liev Schreiber.

Her father's manic laugh can be heard in Pink Floyd's "Speak to Me" and "Brain Damage" from The Dark Side of the Moon.[81] Watts is pictured in her mother's arms with her father, brother, the band, and other crew members, in the hardback/softcover edition of drummer Nick Mason's autobiography of the band Inside Out.[82]

Watts was in a relationship with director Stephen Hopkins[81] in the 1990s and actor Heath Ledger[83] from August 2002 to May 2004. Since the spring of 2005, Watts' has been in a relationship with the actor Liev Schreiber. She confirmed in an interview in late January 2009 that Schreiber had in fact given her a ring (which she was not wearing at the time) but that neither of them wanted to rush into marriage.[84] Schreiber, known to play tricks on the media, had once before called her his wife in 2007, but later revealed that it was a joke.[85] The couple's first son, Alexander "Sasha" Pete, was born on 25 July 2007 in Los Angeles, and their second son, Samuel "Sammy" Kai, on 13 December 2008 in New York City.[86] After a temporary hiatus from acting, she returned to work with The International, her first project since becoming a mother.[87] Watts stated in April 2010 that she would have a third child if she could guarantee a baby girl.[88]

She considered converting to Buddhism after having gained interest for that religion during the shooting of The Painted Veil. She said of her religious beliefs, "I have some belief but I am not a strict Buddhist or anything yet".[89] In 2002, she was featured in People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People.[90]

Charity work

In 2006, Watts became a goodwill ambassador for Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, it helps to raise awareness of AIDS issues. She has used her high profile and celebrity to call attention to the needs of people living with this disease.[91] Watts participated in events and activities, including the 21st Annual AIDS Walk.[92] She is presented as an inaugural member of AIDS Red Ribbon Awards. She has participated in campaigns for fundraising. On 1 December 2009, Watts was meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and joined the AIDS response at a dramatic public event commemorating World AIDS Day 2009.[93] During the event, she said: "It has been both unfortunate and unfair for HIV infection to be considered a shameful disease, for people living with HIV to be judged as blameworthy, and for AIDS to be equated with certain death. I have personally seen that dignity and hope have been strongest among those whose lives were changed by HIV."[94]

In 2011, she attended to a charity polo match in New York City along with Australian actors Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher, which was intended to raise money to help victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[95]


Year Film Role Notes
1986 For Love Alone Leo's Girlfriend film debut
1990 Hey Dad..! Belinda Lawrence Television series (2 episodes)
1991 Flirting Janet Odgers
Home and Away Julie Gibson Television series (4 episodes)
Brides of Christ Frances Heffernan Television series (3 episodes)
1993 Wide Sargasso Sea Fanny Grey
Matinee Shopping Cart Starlet
Gross Misconduct Jennifer Carter
Custodian Louise
1995 Tank Girl Jet Girl
1996 Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering Grace Rhodes
Persons Unknown Molly
Bermuda Triangle Amanda Television movie
Timepiece Mary Chandler Television movie
1997 Under the Lighthouse Dancing Louise
1998 A House Divided Amanda Short film
Dangerous Beauty Guila De Lezze
Sleepwalkers Kate Russell Television series (9 episodes)
Babe: Pig in the City Additional Voices
Christmas Wish Renee Television movie
1999 Hunt for the Unicorn Killer Holly Maddux TV movie
Strange Planet Alice
2000 Wyvern Mystery Alice Fairfield TV movie
2001 Never Date an Actress The shallow girlfriend Short film
Ellie Parker Ellie Parker Short film
Down Jennifer Evans The Shaft in the U.S.
Mulholland Drive Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Chlotrudis Award for Best Actress
Outfest – Screen Idol Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
National Board of Review for Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress
Village Voice Film Poll – Best Lead Performance
Nominated – American Film Institute Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Actress
2002 Rabbits Suzie
The Ring Rachel Keller Saturn Award for Best Actress
Undertaking Betty Meredith Also released as Plots with a View
Outsider Rebecca Yoder Television movie
2003 Ned Kelly Julia Cook
Divorce Roxeanne de Persand Venice Film Festival – Wella Prize also for 21 Grams
21 Grams Cristina Peck Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Independent Spirit Awards – Special Distinction Award
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Venice Film Festival – Audience Award
Venice Film Festival – Wella Prize also for Le Divorce
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
2004 We Don't Live Here Anymore Edith Evans
I Heart Huckabees Dawn Campbell
Assassination of Richard Nixon Marie Andersen Bicke
2005 The Ring Two Rachel Keller Nominated – Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Scream Scene Best Actress
Stay Lila Culpepper
Ellie Parker Ellie Parker (feature film)
Seattle International Film Festival – New American Cinema Award – Honorable Mention
King Kong Ann Darrow International Cinephile Society Award for Best Actress
London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Saturn Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Australian Film Institute International Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
2006 Inland Empire Suzie Rabbit (Voice)
Painted Veil Kitty Fane
2007 Eastern Promises Anna Khitrova Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Actress
2008 Funny Games Ann Farber Nominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Actress
2009 International Eleanor Whitman
2010 Mother and Child Elizabeth Joyce Nominated – Australian Film Institute International Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sally
Fair Game Valerie Plame Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
2011 Dream House Ann Patterson
Impossible Dr. Maria Belon[96] (filming)[97]
J. Edgar Helen Gandy
2012 Movie 43 (post production)


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