´ 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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - David Campbell - Words by MICHELE MANELIS

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´´

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