Naomi Watts in a scene from the film The Impossible: her performance has already drawn a Golden Globe nomination and she is listed among the top five Oscar contenders.

Naomi Watts in a scene from the film The Impossible: her performance has already drawn a Golden Globe nomination and she is listed among the top five Oscar contenders.

Keeping her perspective

To play a mother torn from her husband and sons by the 2004 tsunami, Naomi Watts sure wasn’t going Method. The British actress took her partner Liev Schreiber and two sons to the Thailand set of The Impossible, where Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona recreated the jaw-dropping destruction in a resort area. She talked through the story with Sasha, five, and Kai, four, to get them used to seeing their mother coughing up blood with a heavily bruised face and deep gashes across her body.

LOS ANGELES — To play a mother torn from her husband and sons by the 2004 tsunami, Naomi Watts sure wasn’t going Method.

The British actress took her partner Liev Schreiber and two sons to the Thailand set of The Impossible, where Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona recreated the jaw-dropping destruction in a resort area.

She talked through the story with Sasha, five, and Kai, four, to get them used to seeing their mother coughing up blood with a heavily bruised face and deep gashes across her body.

“Yeah, it’s not the best way to see mommy, is it?” Watts laughs in an interview. “They came first time on a day where I had minimal wounds — nothing too much. … And then by the third day they came, they were putting the chocolate powder all over me and painting some wounds on themselves and me. So they understood it.

“I know it’s not completely normal. But this is the life that actors live. And we are playing dress-up some of the time.”

In an already critically acclaimed performance, Watts portrays real-life Spanish doctor Maria Belon, who was swept away by the rush of water with her eldest son and treated in a Thai hospital until she was reunited with her two younger sons and husband, played by Ewan McGregor.

The Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunamis on the day after Christmas killed more than 200,000 people across Southeast Asia. But The Impossible is a disaster movie that narrows its focus to one family’s survival.

“That makes us understand a lot more about it than we could otherwise. Because it’s too mind-blowing to get your head around,” McGregor said. “The death count was so high, the devastation was so huge.”

Watts, 44, says the role was among her most challenging ever, physically and emotionally, with the added layer of trying to tactfully convey a horrific reality. Belon has joined Watts and the filmmakers at premieres.

“It was a great pressure and responsibility to get it right because of what she went through and how much she suffered,” Watts says of Belon. “And then on top of her story, it was hundreds of thousands of others.”

The Associated Press review praised Watts for her “vivid, deeply committed performance” and she has been nominated for a Golden Globe award. Website Gold Derby, which surveys multiple awards observers, lists her among the top five Oscar contenders in the best actress race.

Her bedridden character barely moves her body through the majority of the film and croaks out words painfully.

Watts said Bayona often went through scenes with the dialogue in the script, then reshot the same scene without words, using the latter in the final edit. Teen dancer-turned-actor Tom Holland, who stars as the eldest son, said that was probably for the best.

In character, “she had this voice, and it was really, really genuinely terrifying,” Holland said. “The first time I heard it, I was like ‘Wow, there’s something not quite right here. What’s going on?’ ”

McGregor, whose character is not injured as badly, says he was similarly impressed by his co-star.

“For 85 per cent of the movie, she’s really badly injured, fearful for her life and the safety of her husband and her other two sons, anticipating the fact that she might be dying,” he said.

“There’s never a sense of that being on one note. I’ve talked to her about it. I said, it’s an extraordinary achievement that you managed to weave such variety into it and take us on this huge journey.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Aamir Hussain, owner of Shoppers Drug Mart in Clearview Market Square, said he expects vaccine to be available to eligible seniors next week at his store. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Red Deer pharmacies prepare to be part of COVID-19 immunization plan

Seniors have already been calling to book appointments

Alberta Health Services Logo
AHS checking in with local businesses about COVID-19 plan

Alberta Health Services in the central zone is reaching out to local… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, an iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans. Facebook says it’s going all in to block the spread of bogus vaccine claims. In practice, that means the social network plans to ban a new bunch of false claims in addition to the old bunch of false claims about vaccines or COVID-19 that it has already banned. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
Facebook says it will pay $1B over 3 years to news industry

Facebook says it will choose which publishers it will support

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Aggressive arrest in Red Deer caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers' group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston
Dairy farmers lobby asks members to stop using palm oil in feed after ‘buttergate’

A dairy producers’ lobbying group is asking farmers to consider alternatives to… Continue reading

A new report says Canada’s small businesses now collectively owe more than $135 billion as they struggle to survive the pandemic, a staggering amount experts say could hurt the country’s economic recovery. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Canadian small businesses rack up $135 billion in debt to survive pandemic: Report

TORONTO — Canada’s small businesses have collectively taken on $135 billion in… Continue reading

A Loblaws store is seen in Montreal on March 9, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Loblaw ready to call on pharmacists, supply chain to help COVID-19 vaccine rollout

BRAMPTON, Ont. — Loblaw Companies Ltd. says its ready to play a… Continue reading

Imperial Oil logo as seen at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Friday, April 29, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Imperial Oil reports one-billion-barrel drop in bitumen reserves at end of 2020

CALGARY — Imperial Oil Ltd. is cutting one billion barrels from its… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference about training for judges Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Justice Minister David Lametti proposes permanent justice reforms in wake of pandemic

OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic appears set to force a modernization of… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday Nov. 26, 2020. Lametti says he will seek parliamentary approval to remove a Quebec judge from the bench after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the judge’s appeal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Justice minister to seek judge’s removal after Supreme Court declines to hear appeal

OTTAWA — Justice Minister David Lametti says he will seek parliamentary approval… Continue reading

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is reeling after news defence chief… Continue reading

William Sandeson arrives at provincial court in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. Canada’s top court has declined to hear a Crown appeal of an overturned murder conviction in the case of a former Nova Scotia medical student. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Supreme Court declines to hear Crown appeal of overturned N.S. murder conviction

Canada’s top court has declined to hear an appeal from the Crown… Continue reading

Most Read