Also Credited As:Naomi Ellen Watts
|Naomi Ellen Watts on September 28, 1968 in Shoreham, England, GB|
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Born in Shoreham, England on Sept. 28, 1968, the young Watts suffered the trauma of losing her father when she was only seven years old. Four years later, she relocated to Australia with her mom and began to study acting. Eventually, she began going on auditions - it was at one where she would meet her best friend Nicole Kidman - and landed her first film role in "For Love Alone" (1986). Watts enjoyed her first substantial part alongside best pal Kidman in "Flirting" (1991), the John Duigan-directed sequel to "The Year My Voice Broke." Cast as a snobby schoolgirl, the teen actress made an impression and her career was born. Watts went on to co-star with Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, Josephine Byrnes, Kym Wilson and a young Russell Crowe in the Australian miniseries "Brides of Christ" (1991). Duigan tapped her once again when he cast her in a supporting role in "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1992). Moving to the United States, Watts acted in her first Hollywood movie, the comedy "Matinee" (also 1992) in a bit role as an aspiring movie star. She enjoyed a cult hit as Jet Girl in the film adaptation of the comic book "Tank Girl" (1995) but box office success and that seminal role which would catapult her to stardom still eluded her, even as she watched her longtime friend Kidman become a virtual international overnight A-lister after hooking herself to megastar Tom Cruise in 1990. Meanwhile Watts appeared in a string of TV productions of varying quality, from the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" drama "Timepiece" (CBS, 1995) to the failed 1997 NBC series "Sleepwalkers" to the above average miniseries "The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer" (CBS, 1999). Between small screen gigs, the actress was cast as the wife of a Venetian nobleman in "Dangerous Beauty/Destiny of Her Own" (1998) and as a fragile, morally upright young woman in "Strange Planet" (1999), Emma-Kate Croghan's ensemble film about a group of friends struggling to cope with modern life.
Then along came a strange, brilliant man named David Lynch who cast the actress in what was hoped would be her breakthrough, an ABC TV series called "Mulholland Drive," created by and directed by Lynch. Although the network passed on the quirky drama, Lynch was able to shoot additional material and create a strange film that painted a dark picture of the Hollywood dream factory. Indeed her dual role as perky wannabe Betty Elms and the cynical Diane Selwyn provided Watts with rich and complex material that she skillfully handled. If anyone had any doubts about her capabilities, one scene in particular clinched it: Betty auditions for a movie role and while the dialogue is trite, her reactions to her scene partner (Chad Everett) and her approach to the part allowed Watts to play many layers and moods at once. That astonishing scene alone made critics and audience take notice - to say nothing of the love scenes between her and her fellow lovely newcomer, Laura Elena Harring. Watts displayed a similar charisma in the Sundance-screened short "Ellie Parker" (2001), about an Australian actress trying to carve a career in L.A. Having to switch gears from auditioning for the role of a Southern belle, to trying out for the part of a street junkie, she displayed her amazing range and prodigious talent. Casting agents and directors began to take notice following this one-two punch and Watts found herself being offered choice roles. She starred as a frontier widow who harbors an outlaw in the Showtime original "The Outsider" (2002) and played a TV newswoman investigating a rash of elevator accidents in "Down" (2001).
After the rush of attention following "Mulholland Drive," Watts effectively kept herself in the public eye thanks to two high-profile relationships: one with her longtime friend Kidman, whose constant shows of support added luster to Watts' rising star; and a romantic relationship with up-and-coming heartthrob Heath Ledger, which captivated the paparazzi. But she continued to deliver the goods onscreen as well, delivering a strong, emotional performance in her first mainstream star vehicle, the haunted high-tech thriller "The Ring" (2002), playing an investigative journalist and single mom who discovers a cursed videotape. The Gore Verbinski-helmed film established her firmly as a bankable star and was such a hit, she returned to give an another strong central performance in the otherwise less inspired 2005 sequel, "The Ring 2." Watts was equally good in the relaxed, sophisticated Merchant-Ivory production of Diane Johnson's bestselling novel, "Le Divorce" (2003), playing an aspiring American poetess in contemporary Paris who is abandoned by her husband, a French scoundrel who jilts her while she is pregnant. Once again Watts' enviable ability to conjure genuine, heart-rendering emotion served her well in the role. The actress successfully reinvented herself yet again in the brooding drama "21 Grams" (2003), playing a reformed party girl who slips back into her self-abusing ways after losing her family in a car accident. With that performance, Watts found herself at the center of much critical acclaim and awards buzz, earning her first Oscar nomination as Best Actress.
Watts' immediate post-Oscar entries included the little-seen, long-delayed Aussie crime drama about legendary bank robber "Ned Kelly" (2004), which paired her to surprisingly little effect with Ledger; and the unremarkable indie drama "We Don't Live Here Anymore" (2004), in which she played one of two academic, suburban couples who self-destructively enter into extramarital affairs with their neighbors' spouses. She then assumed a role that Kidman could not fit into her schedule - and one that Gwyneth Paltrow had already vacated - when she appeared in writer-director David O. Russell's fourth feature, "I [Heart] Huckabees" (2004), an "existential comedy" exploring the spiritual lives of a group of people involved with a department store called Huckabees. Watts played Dawn, the store's lovely spokesmodel, who is ultimately pushed to the breaking point by the complications spinning out of her sheer physical beauty. She followed up with a brief supporting turn in "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" (2004) as the long-suffering waitress ex-wife of a man (Sean Penn) slowly descending into a madness that will lead to an attempted attack on the White House.
Less satisfying was "Stay" (2005), director Marc Forster's ambitious but murky psychological thriller as the girlfriend of a shrink (Ewan McGregor) whose suicidal patient somehow begins invading his dreams and blurring the lines of their realities and individuality, including their relationship. Her next film, "Ellie Parker" (2005), was an intriguing experimental curiosity: in 2001 writer-director Steve Coffey shot Watts with a handheld digital video camera for a 16-minute short, which cast the actress as a young actress trying to protect and nurture her talent in heartless Hollywood. Over the ensuring years Watts and Coffey would reunite whenever they could find a free day together and add new sequences to Ellie's story, until he finally had a full film for release in 2005. Watts then took on a project of much bigger proportions, cast in the iconic Fay Wray role of Ann Darrow for director Peter Jackson's long-dreamed-of, much anticipated remake of "King Kong."
While "King Kong" provided Watts with even wider exposure than she had before, the thankless role of damsel in distress ultimately proved to be limiting. She returned to smaller budgets with "The Painted Veil" (2006), a romantic drama about a young English couple (Watts and Edward Norton) married for the wrong reasons who relocate to Shanghai, where she falls in love with another man (Liev Schreiber - later to become her real-life boyfriend post-Ledger and fiancé in April 2006. In "Eastern Promises" (2007), Watts played a London midwife who delves into the past of a Russian prostitute after she dies during childbirth, only to stumble into a Russian police operation trying to expose a major Eastern mafia prostitution ring. Although Watts had by this time happily moved on to a relationship with Schreiber, she was devastated with the accidental drug overdose death of her ex-boyfriend, Heath Ledger, in January 2008. In a cruel twist, she was at the Sundance Film Festival promoting a film when the press informed her of his sudden death on the red carpet, causing the actress to leave in tears. She next played an attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's office who helps a world-weary Interpol agent (Clive Owen) investigate a major banking scandal in the taut conspiracy thriller, "The International" (2009). In "Fair Game" (2010), she portrayed Valerie Plame, a CIA agent exposed by the Bush Administration as political retribution toward her husband, Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), publicly refuting the White House's case for war with Iraq. Also that year, she delivered a strong performance in "Mother and Child" (2010), playing a woman whose mother (Annette Bening) gave her up for adoption as a baby, leading her to lead a successful, but lonely life that nonetheless remains inexorably entwined with that of her mother's. Watts' heartbreaking performance earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. Tempering the tragedy was the birth of Samuel, her second son with Schreiber - their first boy, Alexander, having been born a year earlier.
Watts next played an attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's office who helps a world-weary Interpol agent (Clive Owen) uncover a major banking scandal in the taut conspiracy thriller, "The International" (2009). In "Fair Game" (2010), she portrayed Valerie Plame, a CIA agent exposed by the Bush Administration as political retribution toward her husband, Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) for publicly refuting the White House's case for war with Iraq. Also that year, she delivered a strong performance in "Mother and Child" (2010), playing a woman whose mother (Annette Bening) gave her up for adoption as a baby, leading her to lead a successful, but lonely life that nonetheless remains inexorably entwined with that of her mother's. Watts' heartbreaking performance earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. The busy actress finished out the year by joining the ensemble cast of writer-director Woody Allen's romantic-comedy "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (2010) opposite Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones. The following year Watts was seen as a next-door neighbor unknowingly entangled in the tragedy of a young couple (Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz) in the critically and commercially panned supernatural thriller "Dream House" (2011). She fared better as Helen Gandy, the indispensable devoted secretary to controversial FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) in director Clint Eastwood's biopic "J. Edgar" (2011). Taking on a starring role, she teamed with Ewan McGregor as a wife and mother whose family is literally torn apart during the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in the harrowing inspired-by-true-events drama "The Impossible" (2012). Her performance garnered nominations for Best Actress at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.