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Eastern Promises - Naomi Watts interview

Naomi Watts in Eastern Promises

Interview by Jack Foley

NAOMI Watts talks about learning to ride motorcycles for Eastern Promises, becoming an executive producer on movies and why David Cronenberg has a wicked sense of humour.

She also talks about playing a midwife, her own pregnancy and how she’s beginning to balance her career with motherhood…

Q. Eastern Promises marks another dark role for you, do you ever hanker for a gentler, lighter movie?
Naomi Watts: Of course, I think about that all the time, but I think the lighter stuff is harder to find, truthfully. Certainly comedy. Female roles in comedies are usually quite silly, I think. I think film is a director’s medium and the good filmmakers that I like tell the darker stories. Therefore, I’m always inclined to follow people like David Cronenberg.

Q. Are dark films dark and depressing to make or can you have a laugh?
Naomi Watts: I think you have to laugh. In fact, I was quite surprised about that. You think when you know someone’s work… we hadn’t met and I thought he [Cronenberg] would probably be this very intense, brooding man who wouldn’t want to talk to me very much. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, David’s got a wicked sense of humour.

Q. Does it “up the stakes” for you as an actress when you work with someone as intense as Viggo [Mortensen]?
Naomi Watts: I think it’s not only helpful to him but to those around him. I don’t know Viggo that well but I get the feeling that he was pretty much connected to the character he plays the whole time.

Q. What’s harder, being an executive producer on [the forthcoming] Funny Games or riding a bike around London for Eastern Promises?
Naomi Watts: Riding a motorbike, definitely. I’d never ridden a motorbike before. David is a bit of a motorbike enthusiast. I did one day on the training bike, and the next day I went on the actual bike, which was a beast of a bike, weighing 400 pounds. And then the next day we were filming on a nice big movie set, on wet down roads and about 200 people standing by, some of which were paparazzi. It was not very comfortable at all, and probably the hardest thing I’ve done.

Q. Did you brave the traffic for real?
Naomi Watts: I did… well, it was all controlled but it was pretty scary.

Q. Did your experience of being an executive producer [on Funny Games] give you an insight into the pressures on directors and producers?
Naomi Watts: Yeah, basically you’re invited to be a part of the creative process and pitch in with those decisions being made. And you get to have a fancy credit. I’ve had that experience now two or three times. Sometimes it means doing more than even the crew and when you’re going to shoot and how you’re going to shoot. But some other times it’s just for creative decisions.

Q. Did your research into being a midwife give you a greater grasp of your own pregnancy?
Naomi Watts: Yeah, I definitely learned a lot while I was here. went to Whittington Hospital and shadowed a few midwives on a few different days. I saw some births and read up on it, so it was definitely very useful information. I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time, though.

Q. Did any aspect of the film give you nightmares, or your research?
Naomi Watts: Being in the hospital and seeing live births I did say: “I’m definitely not gonna to do that!” Or: “I’m not gonna have a C section.” And I’m not gonna have an epidural, I’m going to have this pure birth. But you can’t really have that planned, can you?

Q. How are you combining motherhood with your career?
Naomi Watts: Well, I haven’t gone back to shoot yet, but it’s in the pipeline. He’s three months old. I’ve done some promotional work but it’s nice to be able to say I’ve got a baby now because it means I can only do three hours of press because of feeding intervals. It’s unusual to spend even three full hours away from my newborn baby, it’s like a piece of my body is back in the hotel room, and it does feel strange. But I love my work, though, it’s not just a job for me, punching in my time card. I’ve always loved what I do, it’s what makes me happy and I figure if I’m happy I’ll be a good Mum too.

Q. Are you alternating projects with Liev?
Naomi Watts: We’re making those kind of pacts, and we’re definitely in negotiation over whose turn it is. My first question now is: “Where does it shoot?” It used to be: “Who’s directing it?’.”

b>Read our review of Eastern Promises