Naomi Ellen Watts (born 28 September
1968) is a British-born Australian raised actress. Watts began her career
in Australian television, where she appeared in commercials and series,
including the soap opera Home and Away, Brides of Christ and the family
sitcom Hey Dad..!. Watts is known for her roles in the successful films
Mulholland Drive (2001), The Ring (2002), 21 Grams (2003), for which she
was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and King Kong
(2005), where she acted along with Jack Black and Adrien Brody. Watts
starred Eastern Promises (2007), and appeared with Clive Owen in The
International (2009). Watts stars in Fair Game, with her 21 Grams costar
Sean Penn and Mother and Child (2010).
Watts was born in Shoreham, Kent, England, the daughter of Myfanwy Edwards
(née Roberts), a Welsh antiques dealer and costume and set designer, and
Peter Watts, a road manager and sound engineer who worked with Pink Floyd.
Watts has one brother, Ben, a year older and now a photographer residing
in the United States. Watts's parents separated when she was four years
old. Her father died during her childhood. Following her father's death,
her 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.
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
Although her mother occasionally moved the family around Wales and
England, usually to follow boyfriends, she always ended up returning to
Llangefni, living there until Naomi was 14. Watts says that she wanted to
become an actress since watching the 1980 film Fame. In 1982, the family
moved to Sydney, Australia. Her grandmother was Australian, which made it
easier to obtain the documentation necessary, since Watts and her family
were entitled to Australian citizenship.
Of her nationality, she has said:
“ "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".
"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".
After moving to Sydney, she attended Mosman High School. She attended
several schools, including North Sydney Girls' High School, where her
classmates included Nicole Kidman, with whom she is still close. In 1986
she took a break from acting and went to Japan to work as a model, but the
experience, which lasted for about four months, was fruitless as Watts did
not have the physical requirements for a professional runway model and
could only hope to be working in promotions, which did not excite her.
Watts describes it as one of the worst periods of her life. Upon returning
to Australia, she went to work for a local department store and from there
she went to work as assistant fashion editor with an Australian fashion
magazine. A casual invitation to participate in a drama workshop rekindled
her passion for acting, and prompted her to quit her job and dedicate
herself to succeeding as an actress.
Watts's career began in Australian television, where she appeared in
commercials and series, including the soap opera Home and Away, the award
winning mini-series Brides of Christ and the family sitcom Hey Dad..! She
was featured in a supporting role in the acclaimed 1991 Australian indie
film Flirting, starring future Hollywood up-and-comers Nicole Kidman and
Thandie Newton. As Watts made the transition from Australia to the United
States, she landed a supporting role in the cult 1995 film Tank Girl,
playing the part of "Jet Girl".
Finding quality roles in the Hollywood system at first proved difficult.
She appeared in the short-lived series, Sleepwalkers and numerous B-list
productions such as films like Children of the Corn IV. Much of her early
career is filled with near misses in casting as she was up for significant
roles in films such as The Parent Trap, Meet the Parents and Man on the
Moon, roles would eventually go to other actresses. Gradually, Watts
attracted supporting roles in films such as Dangerous Beauty.
In 2001, she starred in The Shaft directed by Dick Maas, which garnered
poor reviews. Watts starred in David Lynch's highly acclaimed Mulholland
Drive. The film premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, winning her
the National Society of Film Critics Award as Best Actress and the
National Board of Review award as Breakthrough Performance of the Year.
The surrealist film attracted controversy with its strong lesbian theme.
Having worked with director/screenwriter Scott Coffey on Mulholland Drive,
they teamed up to co-produce her next film, the semi-autobiographical
Ellie Parker, which grew out of the friendship forged between Watts and
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. The
following year, she starred in the film Ned Kelly opposite Heath Ledger,
Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush, as well as the Merchant-Ivory film Le
Divorce with Kate Hudson. Her performance opposite Sean Penn and Benicio
del Toro in director Alejandro González Iñárritu's 21 Grams earned Watts
her first Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. She said of the
nomination, "It's far beyond what I ever dreamed for - that would have
been too far fetched".
She produced and starred in the well-received independent film We Don't
Live Here Anymore. She reunited with Sean Penn and Don Cheadle in The
Assassination of Richard Nixon, teamed up with Jude Law and Dustin Hoffman
in David O. Russell's ensemble comedy I ♥ Huckabees, and starred in the
sequel to the Ring, The Ring Two.
She then starred in the much-anticipated remake of King Kong (2005) as Ann
Darrow. The role, immortalized by Fay Wray in the original film, proved to
be Watts's most commercially successful film yet. Helmed by The Lord of
the Rings director Peter Jackson, the film won high praise and grossed
$550 million worldwide.
... 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.
Watts starred in The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Liev Schreiber,
released in December 2006. She has since finished the films Funny Games (a
remake of the 1997 Austrian film by director Michael Haneke) with Tim
Roth, and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises with Viggo Mortensen.
The press has labeled her the "queen of remakes" because she has starred
in so many of them; she is scheduled to star in the remake of Alfred
Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Watts has stated only that there have been
"discussions" about the remake.
In January 2010, she was cast for the Thriller film Dream House, which
will be directed by Jim Sheridan. She also appears in the drama Mother and
Child, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Watts, star of box office successful films like The Ring, 21 Grams, and
King Kong, is, according to Forbes, one of the actresses that charges less
for a film, when compared with the highest paid actresses. She helped the
box office rake in an estimated $44 for every $1 she was paid for her last
three major films.
Watts was most successful with King Kong (2005), which grossed in its
first weekend at U.S. $50,130,145, for which she received $5 million
In 2006, Watts became a goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS, 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. Watts
participate in events and activities, including the 21st Annual AIDS Walk.
She is presented as an inaugural member of AIDS Red Ribbon Awards. She has
participated in campaigns for fundraising.
On December 1, 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. During the event, she
“ “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.”
Her father's manic laugh can be heard in Pink Floyd's "Speak to Me" and
"Brain Damage" and her mother's comments can be heard in "The Great Gig in
the Sky" and "Money" from The Dark Side of the Moon. 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.
Watts dated Stephen Hopkins in the 1990s and actor Heath Ledger from
August 2002 to May 2004. Since the spring of 2005, Watts's partner has
been the actor Liev Schreiber. She confirmed in an interview in late
January 2009 that Liev 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. This would confirm that they are engaged but had no serious
plans for marriage at the time. Yet rumours that they had been married in
a secret ceremony surfaced when a video of her and her family, which
featured them planting trees for the Jewish National Fund in Israel, also
featured Liev referring to her as his wife came out in early June. Liev,
known to play tricks on the media, had once before called her as such in
2007 but later revealed that it was all a joke. Since there has been no
proof given other than Liev's word in the video, it is unclear as to
whether or not he is telling the truth or simply playing another joke.
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. After a temporary hiatus from acting, she returned
to work with The International, her first project since becoming a mother.
Watts is a close friend of Benicio del Toro, with whom she co-starred in
21 Grams. Watts is friends with actress Isla Fisher, and is godmother to
The Mentalist's Simon Baker's oldest daughter, Stella. She is also best
friends with fellow Australian actress Nicole Kidman, after having met
when they were in their teens during an audition. Watts even moved in with
Kidman for a time as nanny to Kidman's, and her then husband Tom Cruise,
children when Watts's own career had yet to gain commercial success.
After filming The Painted Veil, she became attracted to Buddhism,
claiming, "I have some belief but I am not a strict Buddhist or anything
yet. There was a lot of excitement and energy there."
'Pain is such an important
thing in life. I think that as an artist you have to experience
suffering. It's not enough to have lived it once; you have to relive
it. Darkness is not a pejorative thing."
"There's a lot of skeletons in my closet, but I know what they're
wearing. I'm not gonna act all ashamed of it" - on her early career.
It was total naivety that got me to Hollywood. I thought it was
going to happen straight away. I told myself 'give it 5 years,
there's no way I'll be here after that if it doesn't happen'. Cut to
ten years later!
On set is where I feel comfortable. The red carpet stuff, talking
about the film, explaining your own life, it doesn't come naturally.
It's all necessary stuff I suppose but it's not my strength.
I find myself gravitating towards drama. It interests me. In the
books I read, the paintings I like, it's always the darker stuff.
For the record, I am actually British as well as Australian. People
always think I'm Australian but I'm happy for the Brits to claim me
back. I'm offering myself up.
Instead of thinking 'how can I slow the ageing process?' I think
'how can I bend the rules?' Every year you add to your life, you're
going to add a different experience to your face.
Whatever is said about roles drying up, I intend to keep working.
Certainly now the roles couldn't be more interesting - playing
mothers, divorcees. I think it's going to be exciting to play a
mother of teenagers. The longer your life, the deeper it gets.
My mum put me in drama classes when I was about 14. I'd been going
on about it for some time, so maybe it was a way to shut me up.
"We're so afraid of death in our culture, but I think if we
understand it better, then we'll appreciate the life we have more."
- in response to 21 Grams (2003).
"I've had people who've seen 21 Grams (2003) say, 'Wow, you're so
brave to be looking like that'. This shocks me. I think that's what
an actor's job is, to lose yourself in a role".
"You have to make peace with yourself. The key is to find the
harmony in what you have." quoted in the Feb 01, 2005 issue of
If I have to produce movies, direct movies, whatever to change the
way Hollywood treats older women, I'll do it. If I have to bend the
rules, I will. If I have to break them, I will.
Even during my most intense scenes with Sean Penn (in 21 Grams
(2003)), we found ways to have fun. Sure, I have my dark moments,
but I'm the girl you'll see driving down the highway singing to
"It's always nerve-racking to take off your clothes on film. But
doing it with a woman felt safer than with a man. You know you can
say, 'Don't grab me there: That's where my cellulite is'!" [after
being asked if it was hard to do a love scene with a woman
(Mulholland Dr. (2001)]
I always love being in the company of women. It's all about good
conversation and great wine.
"The consequences are that you fear and dread being abandoned. You
get a little tougher, and it's more difficult for you to become
intimate. The pros are that you can adapt to any situation and that
you're open to new surroundings. A lot of people get stuck in their
ways, but I embrace change." on moving frequently when she was
"The biggest place I look for validation is from my mother. That's
the little girl in me that will never grow up." - on why not having
an Oscar yet doesn't faze her.
"That ad recently turned up in a magazine in Australia. My head is
in my hands as I'm sitting at as desk, thinking, 'When can I start
using tampons?' I was quite old, but I was supposed to look 12". -
on one of her first gigs
I'm a tomboy now. I always wanted to fit in with my brother's group,
so I climbed trees and played with lead soldiers. But I'm a woman's
woman. I never understood women who don't have woman friends.
Yeah, I suppose I am ordinarily drawn to the darker stuff. You won't
find me in a romantic comedy. Those movies don't speak to me. People
don't come to talk to me about those scripts, because they probably
think I'm this dark, twisted, miserable person.
"Every time I dress up to go somewhere, I say this is who I am:
like, I feel like a Russian hooker tonight. A long time ago, I put
on a Stella McCartney top with a huge amount of feathers, and I had
really black eye makeup and stringy hair. My mom was like, 'That
top's not working'. But that's what I looked like, a Russian
I keep saying to myself, Oh, God, I'm sick of playing these dark,
harrowing roles. I want a big paycheck, so put me in some dumb
romantic comedy any day.
When I had dark hair I definitely felt that I was more anonymous.
I had gotten to a place where I truly believed everything I was
called: 'not sexy,' 'not funny,' 'too intense,' desperate.' All
those labels they gave me, I took them because there wasn't a trace
of my true self left. - on the struggles of her early career
To be appreciated or recognized is everything to an artist, but to
be placed in a category where judgment occurs is awful, and yet we
are all liars if we can't admit that we haven't all chased it or
dreamed of it, even just a little bit.
Every time I'd think to book a ticket to leave L.A., something would
come up-even just a three day job or something. That was enough to
keep me invested. I still pinch myself when a certain director calls
and says, 'Would you like to read my script?' I don't take any of it
for granted because I struggled for so long.
Yes, I've had six great years of being in a position where I can
pick and choose a bit, but it's not like I suddenly feel so calm and
relaxed about that. Having spent a large portion of my life with a
constant struggle and trying to find ways to make it work, that's
what sticks with me.
There's a set of rules out there somewhere that says it all ends by
40. I hope to be able to defy that because I truly love my work.