Actress Naomi Watts was in Sydney as part of National Donate Your Hair Week. The New York resident and Pantene ambassador was promoting the inaugural Beautiful Lengths program to inspire women to grow, cut and donate their hair to be turned into real-hair wigs for women undergoing cancer treatment. Kate Waterhouse chats to the 44-year-old about her career, being in the spotlight and her upcoming biopic, Diana, which focuses on the last two years of Princess Diana’s life.
What is a typical day?
A normal day is waking up and doing the school run, and then I like to exercise, if I can fit that in. I like to cook. The kids are much better behaved at home rather than in a restaurant. An abnormal day is rushing all over town doing interviews and stuff like that. It’s lots of travel and not enough sleep, but you try to get used to it.
Do you leave your acting at work or do you and your husband [actor Liev Schreiber] come home in character?
You have to [leave it at work]. It’s fair to say with the Diana movie, that I just finished, that was more consuming than anything I’ve done, but for the most time, you have to switch off. I know there are some actors who don’t do that, but I find that too exhausting, [especially] being the mother of two small ones. I know Daniel Day-Lewis does that [stays in character] and you think, ”Oh, I must be so lazy”, but he does less films. In 15 years, allegedly, he’s only made six. I think I would go a bit crazy if I was walking around with the character all the time.
What was the best part about playing Princess Diana?
It was discovering her … We all feel we know a lot from those everyday articles coming out through tabloids … but there was so much more to learn about her. She was a fascinating woman who achieved a lot in far too short a lifetime and I think I just thought, ”This is a woman I’d like to know, this is a woman I’d like in my life”.
What was the worst thing?
The pressure is the hardest part, everyone saying, ”Oh, but you don’t look like her and you’re not tall, you don’t have the same nose” – that is such an annoyance. I’m trying to make an interpretation, I’m not trying to mimic [her] in any way. I’m an actor, I’m just trying to be a part of the storytelling. We are not making a documentary. Obviously we wanted to get as close to her look as possible, but you can only do so much. Getting the voice was something I worked very hard on and I worked with a dialogue coach every day for six weeks. [I was] walking around with the iPod, listening to that [Martin] Bashir interview, that was probably the most candidly she ever spoke, that was recorded.
What have you been doing with your time in Sydney?
I saw my nan yesterday, who is still going strong at 87.
Will you be back in Australia for Christmas?
I hope so but I will be promoting a movie that I’m very proud of called The Impossible, about the 2004 tsunami, and it’s coming out at Christmas, so there is a lot of work and travel involved in that.
You’re a big Hollywood actress but you seem to stay out of the spotlight. Is that intentional?
Nothing scandalous happens in our lives, so yeah. I mean, there are photographers that sometimes camp outside our house or school and wait for a picture but they are the same [photos]: us on bikes with the kids, walking home, hailing a cab. We try to be as unfussy as possible; we both grew up like that, so why should we suddenly become the people who have security guards and major entourages. We keep it simple.
Will you be donating your hair?
[No], unfortunately my hair has been chemically treated. [Coloured and treated hair cannot be donated].
You’ve always been open about talking about your Aussie acting roots, but actor Melissa George has caused a hoo-ha over her Home And Away days. Does it ever get annoying having to speak about the past?
Not for me, [but] I feel bad for her. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, we all start somewhere, we all have skeletons in our closets, we all have paid our dues. It doesn’t matter, it’s work that gets work, that has always been my philosophy on it.
Do you ever look back and think, ”That’s so embarrassing”?
Of course, that’s just part of it. I think everyone, in any career, would feel that … most of us have had to start at some point and had to climb the ladder.
WE WENT TO The Shangri-La Hotel, The Rocks.
WE HAD High tea.
WE DRANK English breakfast tea.
NAOMI WORE Collette Dinnigan dress.
For video footage see smh.com.au