Dissecting Diana: Naomi Watts on playing the people's princess
Diana star Naomi Watts is feeling the pressure like never before – even for a two-time Oscar nominee, the intensity of the response to the movie is something new. “There is a huge amount of responsibility,” she says. “I am a little bit scared by it”
“I love directors,” she nearly gushes. “I can’t bear it when a director doesn’t want to direct me. I can’t bear it when they leave you be. A lot of actors are the opposite. A lot of actors gets prickly about being told what to do. They’re like: ‘Yeah, yeah, got it.’ Not me. I love getting notes. I love getting a new idea for every take.”
In recent years, Watts has made a habit of playing real people. She was very good as Helen Gandy, assistant to Leonardo DiCaprio’s J Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood’s somewhat underrated J Edgar. She was Valerie Plame Wilson in Fair Game. She received her second Oscar nomination for playing Maria Bennett, survivor of the Indian Ocean tsunami, in The Impossible. That, she says, was a great responsibility.
“In Maria’s case – although she lived, hundreds of thousands of other people didn’t, so you’re telling a story for all the people who lost people,” nods Watts. “There is a huge amount of responsibility. In the case of Diana, everybody around the world knows who she is and what she did. So there’s a recognition there that needs to be honoured. And then there are the Princes. We really do need to be sensitive toward them as well.”
She seems to have some understanding of the media mudslide that’s about to come her way. That complicated geographical timeline must help. She’s both an insider and an outsider.
“The British are a poised, measured people,” she says. “They’re not like the Americans. They’re not demonstrative. I think they were surprised by their own grief for Diana. They were surprised that – as a collective – they felt the need to grieve. It’s obviously a lot to do with who she was. That explains why an entire nation came together.”
Still, today’s events suggest that Watts is still a little spooked by the current situation. She did suggest earlier that she was looking forward to it all being over. I can’t say I blame the poor woman.
“I am a little bit scared by it. I was scared by the passion that the project inspired. But that’s part of the job isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
I suppose it is.