“It Only Takes One”

February 18, 2013

Naomi Watts in The Impossible

“It was total naivety that got me to Hollywood. I thought it was going to happen straight away. I told myself, ‘Give it 5 years, there’s no way I’ll be here after that if it doesn’t happen.’ Cut to ten years later!” –Naomi Watts

British-Australian actress, Naomi Watts‘ performance in the real-life thriller, The Impossible is being described as nothing less than “astonishing.” In fact, she’s currently an Academy Award nominee thanks to her portrayal of Maria Bennett, one of the victims of 2004’s devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. And after 20 years in the business, Naomi’s career is still growing by leaps and bounds. Watts is currently shooting the long-awaited biopic, Diana, in which she plays the legendary Princess of Wales. Is there a bigger role for any star in the known universe? Probably not. But Naomi’s ascent to mega success was not, by any measure, a shoe in.

As a teenager living in Australia, Naomi shared a cab after an audition with a girl who would become her best friend, Nicole Kidman. Later on, Watts moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of her acting dream, but desired roles proved hard to come by. And finding agents, producers and directors proved to be frustrating as well. She struggled with serious money woes including not being able to pay the rent, and losing her medical insurance. Sound familiar? Of those early years, Watts says, “I had gotten to a place where I truly believed everything I was called: ‘not sexy,’ ‘not funny,’ ‘too intense,’ ‘desperate.’ All those labels they gave me, I took them because there wasn’t a trace of my true self left.” 

Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman

She was forced to take jobs outside of the industry–one of which was working as a nanny for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. Nicole kept Naomi motivated and enlivened her spirits through ten years of rejection, near misses in important callbacks, and having to suffer lesser roles on TV shows and B-list productions. Naomi credits Nicole for keeping her in the game:

“Oh my God, I mean, I considered myself fairly sensitive, but I don’t think a strong person could cope with it over and over again… there were moments when I was sure I was done. Oh yeah, but I didn’t have a plan B really, I didn’t. [Nicole] She kept saying, ‘It’s just going to take one thing, one thing, Nay, and you know, if you’re in a hit film…then everything changes.’”

That one hit film proved to be David Lynch’s psychological thriller, Mulholland Drive. When she auditioned for the role of Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn, Naomi says, “I was literally at the lowest place, and yet he (Lynch) managed to pull away all those masks.” What followed was an outpouring of best-breakthrough-performance and best-actress awards for Watts.

Nicole was right. It only took one.

So as tough as it is, hang in there, actors! It only takes one pivotal role and your whole life could change. And be sure to find supportive friends. Hey, come to think of it, be sure to be a supportive friend. If we’re not going to help one another, what’s the sense?