In The International, mom’s the word for Naomi Watts

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      LOS ANGELES—Naomi Watts has been busy lately. That’s somewhat true career-wise, but it’s also certainly indisputable when it comes to her personal life. The British-born, Australia-raised and -trained actor and boyfriend Liev Schreiber had their first child in July 2007 and their second child in December last year. The babies were born so close together that she got a script for a film called The International three weeks before she gave birth to her first, Alexander, and the second, Sam, will be just two months old the day the film opens worldwide (Friday [February 13] ).

      Watch the trailer for The International.

      In a Los Angeles hotel room, she says that the film’s director, Tom Tykwer, told her that if she did the movie he would shoot around her as much as possible despite the fact she was the costar and the film was being shot in several exotic locations. “I was told the dates and I thought, ”˜No way,’ because I had a baby due. So Tom and I sat down and he said, ”˜Look, I can make this doable for you. I can condense your work.’ And he went away and came back and said, ”˜We can do your stuff in five weeks,’ including the travel. By the time I got to the set in Berlin, they had been shooting for eight weeks. I shot three weeks in Berlin and two weeks in Milan. But it was definitely a struggle. I had a three-month-old baby when I started out on the film. I was exercising at the six-week point, and so I got strong again, and I have been a very physical person. And there wasn’t too much physical activity, particularly if you compare it to other things like King Kong.”

      In the film, Watts plays Eleanor Whitman, an assistant district attorney in New York City who is working with an Interpol agent named Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) on the investigation of a European financial institution. They believe that the bank might be undermining the governments of developing countries through arms-dealing, and they appear to be getting close to the truth.

      Interestingly, Watts was able to play Whitman because the character has a husband and family. As a result, the character doesn’t feel comfortable travelling the world, fighting crime and leaving her family behind. That allowed Tykwer to give Watts several weeks off and to focus on Owen’s character. Watts admits that, like the character, she is still trying to find a balance between the needs of her professional career and those of her family.

      “I would have loved to do more scenes and to develop the character more, but the conflict for her of balancing both her career and her family and being a good mom and being good at her work and being connected to this case for such a long time was appealing to me. This is a woman who is trying to balance her family and her work, and her family is very important and she always wants to go back to that. The struggle with that conflict is something that I am about to start doing myself. In fact, I am still trying to figure it out. This film is the only one I have done since I have been a mom, so I think it will be an endless struggle. Your family is what you have to put first, so while I am someone who doesn’t want to give up her work because I love what I do, I will have to consider things carefully and think about how it will affect the family. I will have to allot this amount of time to the work and ask myself, ”˜If we are separated, for how long?’ ”

      Watts will move from the action of The International to the independent film Mother and Child, which costars Annette Bening. She has moved seamlessly from studio films to indies and back throughout her career, following up the acclaimed Mulholland Dr. with The Ring, 21 Grams—for which she received an Oscar nomination—and King Kong. She says that she hopes to continue that pattern now that she is working again.

      “It’s always a very different experience on every film, and, certainly, making an independent film versus a studio film is very different,” she says. “The intimacy of an indie film is much easier, and you get to know everyone and you are shooting at a rapid pace, and that way you are connected and fresh. Everything is so fragmented with a big movie. For instance, there is a huge plot in this film. Although the characters felt dynamic enough for me, there is not as much time to develop them. In an independent film, the development of the characters is essential to the movie.”