The M Interview: Naomi Watts enjoys playing the bad guy
Naomi Watts proves age doesn't slow her down with villainesque role in the action-packed The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Over the last 20 years, Naomi Watts has worked on countless films, giving us memorable performances in Mulholland Drive, 21 Grams, King Kong and The Impossible.
But there's still room for firsts in the 47-year-old's career: Like being cast in her first film franchise and an action-packed one at that.
Watts reprises her role as the embittered, power-hungry leader of the factionless Evelyn in the young adult sci-fi sequel The Divergent Series: Allegiant, which opens here tomorrow.
She is a woman seeking to right the wrongs in a dystopian Chicago, but does so at the expense of its citizens and her son, Four (Theo James).
Four eventually flees the city with his protagonist lover Tris (Shailene Woodley) and their allies.
With a small introduction in last year's Insurgent, Watts is back with a meatier role as Chicago's self-appointed new head, after killing resident baddie Jeanine (Kate Winslet).
Watts, who has two sons with her partner, US actor-producer Liev Schreiber, told M: "The stakes were higher and emotions were hotter.
"Evelyn needed to resolve this relationship with her son, coupled with her need to take control of Chicago and you have the face-off with Octavia Spencer's character Johanna (Amity faction's representative).
"I look forward to it when we go back this summer (to film the concluding film Ascendant). It will be quite sad when it comes to an end."
What attracted you to this franchise?
Well, it's action- and female-driven.
Shailene Woodley plays this fantastic, young woman who's going through all kinds of challenges and is able to come out on top over and over again. I think it's great for young women to see that.
Evelyn is also a strong woman who has gone through challenges.
I've always wanted to really play a villain-esque character. I think they're fun. I saw the first movie (2014's Divergent) and thought it was really well done.
Actors Naomi Watts, Theo James, and Shailene Woodley at the New York premiere of The Divergent Series: Allegiant on March 14, 2016 in New York City. PHOTO: AFP
You have not done many sci-fi films, except for 1995's Tank Girl. Did The Divergent Series remind you of it?
It's a fun world to explore with lots of possibilities. But there are no kangaroos in this one (laughs). But yes, it makes for great characters, great drama and great special effects.
Action flicks are fast-paced and demanding. Was that the case for you in The Divergent Series?
Yes but I didn't really have those physical sequences, thankfully. I've done my day with that (laughs).
But not to say I'm not up for it. I just don't know if the body works quite as well as it used to.
The good news about playing the older woman in power, or wiser woman, is that you get other people to do the action for you.
There's this school of thought in Hollywood that actors need a franchise to make them relevant in the public's eye. Is that something you encounter or think is true?
I know your agents will tell you that it's helpful, there are calculated reasons for thinking that way.
But for me, I have to have the material speak to me in some kind of way and possibly grow me in a particular way, and this was just a chance for me to embody this powerful spirit, this wild woman who's made her life into something or repaired it from nothing.
LEADER: Naomi Watts (above) with Miles Teller in The Divergent Series: Allegiant. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES
Allegiant depicts strong female leadership in the characters played by yourself, Woodley and Spencer. Would you say that is something hard to mirror in real life, given the current Hollywood conversation over the gender wage gap?
I think there are glimmers of hope for women right now. I've certainly felt it in our industry.
In the last five years, I've worked with many female film-makers. Before that, I think with maybe one or two in 15 years.
So it does feel like things are changing for the better.