Born September 28, 1968
Mulholland Drive launched Watts’ career, bringing her out from under the radar and into the consciousness of filmmakers and moviegoers. She’s a subtle actress, yet she possesses a powerful screen presence, holding her own next to heavyweight actors and consistently executing both quiet and bold performances in many genres of film.
No film showcases Watts’ range as an actress as in her breakthrough role in Mulholland Drive. In a way, Watts could identify with the character she plays in the film since one of the film’s various plot lines revolves around a young Hollywood starlet (played by Watts) trying to fulfill her dreams of movie stardom. Before landing the role, Watts was trying to do just that in her own life.
Watts didn’t have it easy trying to forge a film career and an identity for herself in the movie industry. She was 31 when she got her first big break in Mulholland Drive, a relatively late start compared to her counterparts in the biz who had established themselves as film heavyweights in their twenties, long before Watts made an impression on David Lynch. But the struggle to make it is where the similarity between Watts and naïve, small-town girl, Betty Elms, whom she portrays in the film, ends.
Watts has managed to star in good movies while remaining out of the glaring spotlight and off the tabloid train. Even after two high-profile romances – a two-year long relationship with the late Heath Ledger and her current long-term union with actor, Liev Schreiber – Watts has avoided becoming the fodder for gossip, and doesn’t seem to set flashbulbs a-popping wherever she goes. She’s achieved critical acclaim as an actress and has brought a character focus to films that could simply have been special effects vehicles (The Ring and King Kong), and she’s made a mark on-screen without personal drama to raise her profile.
She followed her star-making turn in Mulholland Drive with an entirely different kind of film – a remake of the Japanese horror film The Ring. The film is a dark and suspenseful one about a video that brings certain death seven days after you watch it. Although the look of The Ring is good and certain scenes make your spine tingle, the storyline was, in my opinion, a bit absurd and the climax too drawn out. That said, Watts brings a degree of legitimacy to the movie as the female lead and saviour.
Watts played another splendid heroine in the blockbuster remake of King Kong. Although a tad long with some unnecessary scenes with monsters and such, the film is a slick, stylized and entertaining one. Watts delivers the film’s strongest performance by expressing a superb range of emotion in her interactions with Kong, instilling the outlandish premise with a sense of authenticity and believability.
The role that stands out most for me on Watts’ resume is her Academy Award nominated performance in 21 Grams. Watts’ performance as a recovering drug addict, whose stable, happy recovery is derailed by unimaginable tragedy and loss, is gripping and deeply moving. I remember how absorbed I became as I watched Watts’ character set off on a path of renewed substance abuse and revenge.
Watts may not be out there all the time like other actresses, gracing magazine covers every month or headlining entertainment shows, but her work earns her plenty of notice and recognition, and it’s nice to watch a performance by an actress without all of the other outside stuff getting in the way and colouring it.
What performances by Naomi Watts are your favourite? Let us know in the comments section.