Naomi Watts in ‘The Impossible’

Celebrity Q&A
January 29, 2013

British-Australian actress enjoys the emotional work

THE IMPOSSIBLE
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Has Naomi Watts met the real-life woman she played in “The Impossible”?
—Ryan Knowles, Dover, Del.

Watts, 44, did have the opportunity to get to know Maria Belon, as the tsunami survivor was very much involved in the making of “The Impossible.”

“I was really dying to meet her and I was quite nervous when it finally came about,” says the English-born actress, who moved to Australia as a teen. “I walked into the room and we shook hands. I didn’t know where to begin. I was, ‘I am just an actor, and I am going to ask you a silly question, I am sure of it. Look at what you lived through.’ So, I just sat there and thought, ‘Wait until she talks,’ and then she started to well up, as did I.”

Watts says filming “The Impossible” constantly made her question who she would be if she were to undergo such a life-threatening event, and she says can only hope she would have the same powerful instinct that Belon told her she experienced during the 2004 tsunami incident at the Orchid Resort in Thailand.

The closest Watts came was during an underwater scene, where there was a glitch in the equipment, and she was trapped—strapped to a chair—with her oxygen supply just out of reach.

“I thought, ‘Oh, gosh, is the director trying to get extra fearful emotion out of me?’ Then, the chair finally stopped and I came to the surface [she demonstrates gulping air], full of panic, and I got the teeny-weeniest glimpse of what it’s like to hold your breath beyond what you are capable of or want to. Obviously, Maria went way beyond that stage and actually gave up. She wasn’t fearful anymore or panicky. She just went, ‘OK, I am being taken.’ But it filled me with panic and kind of rage—and it turned out it was just a technical problem.”

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