Exclusive Interview: Naomi Watts

Was it easy or difficult to tap into the fear that Ann Darrow feels?
It depends on the scene and what it calls for. Fear is a wonderful emotion to play. I’ve used it a lot in my work in Mulholland Drive, The Ring. Sometimes you go there; sometimes you don’t need to go there. Sometimes it’s there in the script, other times, imagination helps you connect with the truth of the moment.

Do you have any major fears you use to motivate yourself?
Of course! I’m afraid to say what they are [laughs]. Of course, all of us do. I really don’t like flying. I hate injections… But you know what I started doing in China is acupuncture, so that may be helping me a little bit. But the fear of flying has gotten worse – because I do it so much I fear my luck is running out.

The Depression-era setting plays a big role in King Kong…
Peter fell in love with the original version when he was nine years old and that was his defining moment; that’s when he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. So his passion was monumental and it was so great to be around that from day one. He wanted to tell it in a modern way, with new ideas, but honouring what was going on at that time, and how people survived in desperate times. And they really pumped up Ann. She’s no longer the damsel in distress; she’s more of a feisty survivor with a sharp wit. It’s interesting because it’s set in that time when talkies were just starting off, so it was a great platform for a woman’s voice to be out, and 1920 was when women were able to vote so there was a lot for women to say.

You met Fay Wray. Did she give you any advice on how to do the scream?
No she didn’t. I didn’t ask her about that. I should’ve.

Do you think that beauty makes a difference in the world? Isn’t that what attracts Kong to Ann?
It has its ups and downs, beauty. I don’t think that’s why King Kong falls for her. It’s not an external thing. These two beings connect. In a way they’re like kindred spirits; they’ve existed alone for so long. It’s not about the idea that she’s the beautiful golden girl. I think they veered frantically away from that.

How is to work with actors like Adrien Brody and Sean Penn?
Fantastic. I’ve worked with some talented actors. Also Benicio Del Toro, although we didn’t have much screen time together. It’s fun working with people you admire…

How do you prepare for something like the infamous masturbation scene in Mulholland Drive?
It was really difficult. I mean it’s a private moment. It just made me very emotional and sad. David [Lynch] had a very specific thing in mind. He wanted it to be angry and a girl who’s desperately reaching for that connection again that she’d lost. But she was angry and frustrated at not getting there and taking it out on herself. Yeah it’s violent, and unloving and self-loathing…it was hard. When I see that scene, I kind of cry. When I was filming it I was crying and David didn’t want that because it would seem that I had arrived at an emotional place. He wanted me to be reaching for it because I wasn’t there. We did a lot of takes on it. I remember saying to David, “I can’t do this, I can’t do it, David” and he’d be back at his monitor saying, “Okay, Naomi, okay…” But he wouldn’t cut.

Your father was a sound engineer for Pink Floyd. Did your house have a rock and roll vibe?
There definitely was a rock and roll vibe and there still is. We were very connected to the band at the time. Even when my mom and dad divorced we still remained friends with the band’s wives and their kids. Then my mom remarried and he was also in music, so there were always rock and roll people around. I loved Pink Floyd. I still stand by Dark Side Of The Moon as one of the best albums of all time.

Is that the one where we hear your father’s voice?
Yes. The bit of laughing, that’s him. And a lot of those sounds, like the cash machine, those were done by him.