´ Change is always scary ´
A RECENTLY SEPARATED NAOMI WATTS ADMITS MAJOR TRANSITION IS NEVER EASY – BUT SHE’S DETERMINED TO HANDLE IT WITH GRACE FOR THE SAKE OF HER KIDS
Despite specialising in portraying tortured, unhinged women on the edge, Naomi Watts prefers to reserve drama and despair for the big screen. Oscarnominated for her dark, demanding roles in films such as 21 Grams and The Impossible, off-camera Watts is a woman who loves to laugh – loudly, easily and often. Even now, as she finds herself unwittingly in the spotlight over the break-up of her decade-long relationship with Liev Schreiber, there’s no evidence of anguish or fragility as she speaks exclusively to Stellar in New York.
Presumably, it’s hard to go through such a life-altering shift in the public eye? “I feel, whether you’re famous or not, transitions are scary for anybody,” she says, although she is bracing herself as she prepares to speak publicly for the first time since the couple confirmed their separation in September.
As transitions go, this is a big one. Watts has spent the past 11 years in a seemingly picture-perfect relationship with fellow actor Schreiber, which began at the Met Gala in New York back in 2005. The two were soon frequently snapped going about their low-key life in the city, running errands and giving their two sons, Alexander, nine, and Samuel, seven, rides on their bicycles.
She would be forgiven for feeling devastated. But on the contrary, she says, “I feel I’m in a good place in my life and I want to make sure my kids are healthy, my kids are happy and things are going to go well. Those are my hopes for me and for all of us.”
At the moment, Watts is particularly concerned with how to celebrate the festive season with her children – their first as a separated family.
“I’m still figuring out Christmas plans for this year,” she explains. “I obviously want to get back to Australia, but I’m currently working on a TV show, Gypsy, and I’ve only got a limited amount of time off.”
Clearly, with a family scattered around the globe, Watts enjoys bringing everyone together. “When we’re not
going to Byron Bay for Christmas, where my mother has a house and where we have a huge Christmas with all my family – my aunts and their kids, Mum and my grandmother – then we’ll stay in New York and have it at Amagansett, at my [Hamptons] beach house.”
Even though it may prevent her return home for Christmas, Watts is happy to be working on Gypsy, due to air on Netflix next year. She plays a therapist who uses unorthodox techniques to help her patients, and admits she’s “excited” about the challenge. “This character is definitely not boring,” she grins. “And we often shoot 15 or 20 minutes from my house and the kids’ school, which is very handy.”
Actors have welcomed the success of Netflix with open arms. With its varied roster of shows and – shock – casting opportunities for women in their 40s and beyond, it’s given show business a much-needed shake-up. At 48, Watts (whose duties include that of L’oréal Paris ambassador) certainly looks younger than her years and doesn’t appear to have undergone any agedefying surgeries. “It’s probably a bit harder ageing in the spotlight, and it’s tough getting older on camera and feeling the pressure because there’s more judgement and more focus on you,” she admits. “But I think it’s hard for anyone as you transition into midlife.”
She chooses to focus, instead, on “the great things that come with that. You get to carry all these fantastic experiences wherever you go – memories and depths of friendships.”
Watts deliberately avoided building a career based on her looks and therefore can expect to enjoy more longevity than many of her peers. “For the most part, I’ve chosen roles that aren’t centred on vanity,” she explains. “I’m prepared to look old if I have to, that’s not a problem.”
With a busy life, particularly when she’s working, Watts has a tried-andtrue de-stressing method: “I love a hot bath at the end of the day, and if I’m working – which can mean 12 to 14-hour days – it’s really just about getting home and getting into bed. On the weekends I’ll have a nice dinner with friends, a glass of wine or two, and I like to cook, but on school nights I rarely do anything social.”
She may take school nights seriously, but a few of her famous colleagues tell Stellar she brings plenty of joy to her work environment, too. Jake Gyllenhaal, who co-starred with Watts in Demolition this year, says: “She always plays tortured roles, but actually in person she is easygoing, light. She is an extraordinary actor and has no vanity. She doesn’t give a sh*t about the normal trappings we put on actresses or how people perceive her. To me, that’s where she’s fun.
“She’s very funny and energetic,” he adds. “Sometimes I could just sit across from her and she’d make me laugh. I’ve known her for quite a long time, through some pretty tough times and some lovely times. Sometimes, while I’m shooting a scene, I can’t believe I’m really working with a certain actor. When we did Demolition, I felt, ‘ She wants to be in a movie with me?’”
Along with acting success comes red-carpet obligations. Not all stars are comfortable with modelling glamorous couture gowns on the world stage, but Watts carries it off with aplomb. Designer and film director Tom Ford, known for outfitting Hollywood’s elite – including Watts for the 2014 Golden Globes – tells Stellar she is one of his most low-maintenance clients.
“Naomi is so easy,” he says. “She’s beautiful and she has what our culture would tell us is a flawless body. She knows what she likes, she knows what she doesn’t like and what looks good on her.
“It’s less challenging dressing people like Naomi or Julianne Moore, because they have their own definite sense of style. Most girls are so terrified these days. You look back at the ’60s and ’70s, where people could wear wild things, but now they’re all fearful. Now they have to step into a 360-degree camera and all these TV shows rip them apart with comments like, ‘She looks terrible, her shoes are awful.’ It’s highly stressful for someone to choose what to wear.”
For the most part, though, Watts enjoys the pomp and ceremony of the red carpet. “There’s definitely a time and place for vanity. It’s nice that you get experts coming to your house making you look your absolute best. It’s time-consuming but it can be fun. I try to remind myself to do it as gracefully and naturally as possible.”
One of those experts is her stylist, Jeanann Williams – who is her older brother Ben’s ex-girlfriend, and the mother of her niece, Ruby. “Designers love to work with Naomi,” says Williams. “On the red carpet, she knows how to honour the dress, knows how to pose and how to wear it.”
``it´s probably harder ageing in the spotlight. there´s more judgement´´