Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts

British actress Naomi Watts rebounded from early career doldrums to enjoy a successful run in a diverse array of films in the 2000s, including Oscar-nominated turns in "21 Grams" (2003) and "The Impossible" (2012), as well as such popular features as "The Ring" (2002), "I Heart Huckabees" (2004), "King Kong"(2005) and "While We're Young" (2014). Born Naomi Ellen Watts in Kent, England, she was the daughter of Peter Watts, a road manager and sound engineer for the UK rock band Pink Floyd, and Welsh costume and set designer Myfanwy Edwards. Her parents split when Watts was four years of age, and her father died three years later of an apparent heroin overdose, which left Edwards to raise Watts and her older brother, Ben, through acting and design jobs. The family relocated several times during Watts's childhood before settling in Australia during her teenage years; there, after failing to graduate from school and then dabbling in modeling, marketing and magazine editorial work, she decided to follow her childhood interest in acting. Her first screen role came at the age of 18 in the 1986 Australian feature "For Love Alone," but it would be five more years before she earned a follow-up, thanks largely to fellow actress Nicole Kidman, whom she had befriended while the two pursued modeling jobs as teenagers. Kidman introduced her to director John Duigan at the premiere of her 1991 thriller "Dead Calm," and Watts was subsequently cast alongside Kidman and Thandie Newton in his 1991 film "Flirting." After roles in several Australian television projects, Watts accepted Kidman's request to come to Los Angeles, but the trip proved largely fruitless, save for a minor role in Joe Dante's sci-fi/comedy "Matinee" (1993). She then returned to Australia for supporting turns in several films, including Duigan's "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1993), before deciding to make Los Angeles her permanent home, but again, film projects proved elusive. Watts enjoyed a starring role in "Tank Girl" (1995), a sci-fi comedy based on the UK comic series of the same name. It failed to connect with audiences, and Watts spent much of the next five years in a largely negative cycle of underwhelming projects, like "Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering" (1996) and voice work in "Babe: Pig in the City" (1998), and failing to land roles in "The Devil's Advocate" (1997) and "Meet the Parents" (2000). But in 1999, Watts was cast in a television pilot for David Lynch called "Mulholland Drive"; the surreal, psychological thriller failed to secure pick up for series, but with backing from French investors, he completed the project as a feature film. "Mulholland" proved to be a huge critical success, with Watts reaping much of the praise, as well as a Best Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics. More importantly, the film was a springboard for Watts's move into starring roles, beginning in 2002 with "The Ring," an American remake of the Japanese horror film about a cursed videotape. A huge box office hit, Watts followed "Ring" with an eclectic array of projects: she reunited with Lynch for a series of short films under the umbrella title of "Rabbits" (2002), then teamed with Heath Ledger for a remake of the Australian western "Ned Kelly" (2003) before moving into arthouse territory for "Le Divorce" (2003), a drama by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant. It proved to be a box office disappointment, but its follow-up, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "21 Grams" (2003), was not only a critical hit but also a personal success for Watts. As a grieving wife who convinced schoolteacher Sean Penn, who received her late husband's heart in a transplant, to avenge his murder, Watts earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Again, the success of the film led to a wave of projects for the actress, including the indie "We Don't Live Here Anymore" (2004) and David O. Russell's comedy "I Heart Huckabees" (2004), before moving into blockbuster territory with Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong" (2005), for which she played the monster's unrequited love, a role originated by Fay Wray in the original 1933 version. Its colossal success allowed Watts to devote her energies to films and directors that intrigued her, which led to collaborations with David Cronenberg in "Eastern Promises" (2007), German director Michael Haneke in a 2007 English language remake of his excruciatingly tense thriller "Funny Games", Tom Twyker on "The International" (2009), and Clint Eastwood on his biopic "J. Edgar" (2010). She would then net a second Oscar nomination as a woman struggling to find her family in the wake of a tsunami in J.A. Bayona's "The Impossible" (2012), but subsequent projects would vary wildly in terms of quality and response. She shared a Screen Actors Guild Award with her castmates for Inarritu's Oscar-winning "Birdman" (2012), and was featured in "Insurgent" (2015) and "Allegiant" (2016), the second and third entries in the popular "Divergent Series" of science fiction thrillers. But indies like "Adore" (2013) and "St. Vincent" (2014) were met with tepid reviews, while her turn as Princess Diana in 2013's "Diana" and Gus Van Sant's "Sea of Trees" (2015) received critical brickbats, a fate which also befell "Shut In" (2016) and her Netflix series "Gypsy" (2017), with Watts as a therapist who became intimately involved with her patients. But her next television effort, "The Loudest Voice," which cast her as news journalist Gretchen Carlson opposite Russell Crowe's Roger Ailes, was a critical hit, and Watts was soon announced as part of HBO's prequel series to "Game of Thrones" (2011-2019).