London: Naomi Watts struggled for years before getting a big break in Hollywood.
What changed everything for the 41-year-old Oscar-nominated actress was David Lynch casting her in his TV series ‘Mulholland Drive’ in 2001.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, the British-born Australian actress reveals how she became a Hollywood power player.
She said she was not sure whether ‘Mulholland Drive’ would work even during its shooting.
‘Mulholland Drive’ is a surreal take on the pressures on young actresses in Hollywood. Naomi played Betty Elms, a naive young hopeful corrupted by the lure of fame.
“It was so stylised that I felt like I was doing the worst performance ever to hit the screen,” she recalled.
However, ‘Mulholland Drive’ premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews, and Naomi’s life changed overnight.
“I suddenly had a career. I went from being an actor for hire to an actor that directors wanted to cast. I’ll be eternally grateful to David for the chance he gave me,” she said.
Her number has been on the speed-dial button of the best directors in Hollywood ever since.
Naomi’s father Peter Watts (a sound engineer for Pink Floyd) separated from her mother Myfanwy, a Welsh-born antiques dealer and amateur actress, when she was four and her brother Ben was five.
When she was 14, Myfanwy took her children to begin a new life in Australia, settling in Sydney.
“It took time to feel like I fitted in. We’d travelled around a lot in the UK – at one point we lived with my grandparents in Wales – but this was a whole new culture,” said Naomi.
It was signing up for acting classes that helped, she said.
After a brief spell modelling, she began to pick up TV roles, in the miniseries ‘Brides of Christ’ and a few episodes of ‘Home and Away’.
At 21, she landed a role in the coming-of-age drama ‘Flirting’, alongside two other young actresses destined to become stars - Nicole Kidman (whom Naomi had known since they were both teenagers) and Thandie Newton.
“We all got along really well. Nic has been one of my closest friends – and biggest supporters – ever since. She’s fantastic,” said Naomi.
While Kidman’s career soared, Naomi at first struggled when she followed her to the US and there were times when she thought about giving up on the dream.
These days, though, Naomi’s number-one role is motherhood.
She has been with her partner – actor and director Liev Schreiber – since 2005, and has two sons, Alexander, 3, and Samuel, who is only a few months old.
“When I work I’m completely committed. But when I’m not on a set, I’m absolutely the full-time mum. I know it’s a problem that working women the world over face, and many don’t have the great support that I do, so I’m not complaining. But priorities change, because children change everything,” she said.