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Naomi Watts – A Royal Challenge

imagesThe life of Diana, Princess of Wales, was fascinating for millions of people worldwide. Not only was she a royal icon – Diana was a source of inspiration, a trend-setter, something of a style guru but ultimately, as human as the rest of us. She was never out of the papers when she was alive, and still appears regularly – testament to her enduring appeal.

Diana, the forthcoming film starring Naomi Watts in the leading role, covers the two years before she was tragically killed in a Parisien tunnel and focuses on her secret romance with the heart surgeon, Dr Hasnat Kahn. In taking on the role, Watts is well aware that her performance will attract perhaps more attention than any other character she has ever played.

It’s daunting to play Princess Diana,” smiles the 44-year-old. “There’s a lot of pressure on you because everyone has such strong impressions of her, but that’s also why you want to take up the challenge. I couldn’t not do it. She’s an iconic figure, she’s part of history and her story needs to be told.”

Watts, who was born in the UK but grew up in Australia, has also been keen to defuse any possible controversy over the intention of the film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall). “We’re not trying to destroy any memory. We’re trying to show Princess Diana in the best possible light as a human being, though full of different layers.” “I was dreading the reaction among the public to my playing her. You know that people will complain that you don’t look enough like her, that you’re not tall enough, all those things. It’s very difficult to play someone who had such a deep impact and left such a lasting memory on the public. Our memory of her is still very fresh and you have to be respectful of that. It’s also more complicated and sensitive when you take into account her two boys. But I want to do her justice and tell her story truthfully.” 

Watts is also a mother to two boys, who she had with actor Liev Schrieber. They spend most of the year in New York and, Watts says, she feels a little outnumbered. “It’s hectic! Two boys can be a lot to handle and sometimes you think it would be easier with two girls playing with their tea sets and dolls. But Liev loves having two boys and I suppose I might consider having another child if someone could guarantee me it would be a girl!”

Having taken some time off following the birth of her first child, it must have been a considerable adjustment for Watts to raise two children and resume her movie career. “The hardest part was getting back in shape after my first boy was born,” she smiles. “I gained over three stone and it was a struggle to get back to my previous weight and shape. I used to do a lot of Pilates and other kinds of high-tech exercise routines to keep in good form but now I play a lot of tennis because I love the sport and the competitive side to it, which makes it much more fun than doing workouts.”

Things are also easier now, in that I’m able to get much more sleep and have more energy in the mornings at least. I don’t find I need as much make-up in the morning!”

Growing older and becoming a mother has changed the way she perceives herself. “I think it’s helped my self-confidence and outlook that I’ve been able to do a lot of interesting work over the last few years,” she says. “When I started my family, I worried about how difficult it might be to get back to acting. Raising kids means that your attention is fully occupied and you’re not as involved with your career as you once were in terms of thinking about it and planning things. But I feel good about the way my career has been evolving and the films I’ve been making. I’m very grateful for how things have worked out for me.” 

Diana has its world premiere in London on September 5 and is released on September 20.