Naomi Watts has a way of sending a shiver up your spine. Her turn as a dark and mysterious actress in last year’s Mulholland Drive was only the beginning. This week, the 34-year-old stars in her follow-up feature, The Ring, which is as chilling, if not more so than her previous venture thanks to its supernatural premise and creepy imagery.
She plays Rachel Keller, a newspaper reporter who is so riveted by her niece’s gruesome and puzzling death that she embarks on a mission to backtrack the fateful events. The trail leads to an eerie videotape that launches a deadly seven-day curse on whoever views it. Rachel watches the tape in pure disbelief and discovers the legend is true. She then has a week to undo its cryptic contents.
Calling from the Los Angeles home of her boyfriend (actor Heath Ledger – and his caller ID number showed up on my phone!), the warm and friendly actress offered her take on the film that many critics have proclaimed as the scariest of 2002.
QUESTION: What kind of feedback have you heard about The Ring?
ANSWER: It seems to be unanimous. Lots of people have said that they are shocked at how scared they were. And that is coming from full-grown men. I’ve seen it twice. The second time was much better. The first time I felt ridiculous how much I was jumping in my seat and closing my eyes. I mean, I knew the beat, I knew the script. But there I was, our target audience member, shifting about in my seat like everyone else.
Q: I read that there were big names, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Connelly, touted for this part. How did you seal the deal?
A: I heard about it when I was making another film in the south of Wales. My agent called for me to get down there quick, that all these actresses were fighting for it. I got all excited, but nervous about jumping on a plane for a script I hadn’t even read. I told him I couldn’t come because it was too short of time, and just because everyone else is being hysterical I’m not. He called back the next day and said, “Well, they are coming to meet you.” They faxed me the script and I auditioned. I saw the original Japanese film and it was quite frightening. The mood and tone of it was right there in the script, very intense and eerie.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts?
A: I have definitely felt energies and a presence of some things that were paranormal. And I have been very freaked out. These things have happened recently in the past couple of years, and when I was a child. But your mind is a very powerful tool. Once you open a door, thinking that it’s real, you can keep opening more doors until you are so far gone that you can’t shake it.
Q: In real life, would you be the type to watch the tape if you heard about its contents?
A: I would be like Rachel. I would watch out of curiosity because I would think it was totally implausible. But as far as keeping it in my home, I don’t know about that. I think not.
Q: How has your life changed since coming into the Hollywood limelight with Mulholland Drive?
A: Well, today was the first day that I spent half a day working in my closet, sorting what I needed to get rid of. I spent an hour unknotting a silver chain. It was wonderful not to worry about what I have to do. In the most tangible way, my life has sped up and is very full. I have a lot of people to call now. It’s hard, and sometimes it gets a bit stressful, but overall I enjoy it.
Q: On that note, what is your favorite Hollywood perk?
A: Being able to get a reservation at a restaurant. Oh, and being called back (laughs) — it used to take days for people to call me back. And you get nice clothes and stuff.