Hollywood star Naomi Watts on her early life in Kent
- Credit: Archant
King Kong star Naomi Watts may be an Oscar-nominated actor, but she’s proud of her Kentish roots
She’s from Australia – no, she’s not, she’s American. It is not surprising that some people are confused about where screen star Naomi Watts comes from. Let’s end the confusion – Naomi is from Shoreham in Kent, not the ‘other one’ in Sussex.
“I have been back more than once and I am proud to have been born in Kent and being a village makes Shoreham all the more unique.”
It seems that Naomi, 51, was destined to be a star from the moment she was born. Her mother, Miv Edwards was a costume and set designer as well as an antiques dealer and her father, Peter Watts, was a sound engineer and road manager, chiefly working with the legendary band Pink Floyd.
Not only that, but when the midwife saw Naomi for the first time she said: “She’s going to be a star.” It is a well-known fact that if a midwife says you are going to be a star then you are going to be a star and Naomi certainly achieved that – against the odds.
“I remember Kent, of course, but we moved around quite a bit then my Mum and Dad divorced and a couple of years later my Dad died. We relocated to Llanfawr Farm on Anglesey where my grandparents – my mum’s parents – lived.
“It was an unusual childhood I guess. For instance, we took Welsh lessons in a school in the middle of nowhere while everyone else was learning English.
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“For a while I had a Welsh accent because I just seemed to pick up the local accent wherever we lived – an ability that became useful when I later started out as an actress.
“When my mother remarried we moved to Suffolk. I went to Thomas Mills High School and did quite well but I knew what I wanted to do when I left school. “My mother used to act sometimes and I had seen her on stage and then Fame was on TV and I always knew that was where I wanted to be.
“There was still another twist in my tale, however, because when I was 14 we moved to Australia. My mother had lived there with her mother when she was a little girl so we still had family there and off we went.
“It was a bit of a culture shock at first because the attitude towards life was very different, much more casual. It was a good move, however, because it’s where I began my career as an actress and I have never looked back. Since it all really started I’ve spent more time in America than anywhere else, but I have my British passport and I am very proud of that.”
The move to Australia was not only good for Naomi but also for her mother, who worked in television and encouraged Naomi to take acting lessons and start appearing in commercials.
“I think one of the worst things about being in this business is having to do auditions,” says Naomi. “You have to do them, no matter who you are. It is not just a case of being a big star and just walking into any role you like.
“It doesn’t work like that – you might be well-known but you still have to show that you can fit into the role that is on offer. It’s the same if you are doing a 30-second commercial. You still have to go into a room with a handful of people who are probably bored stiff from seeing so many actors uttering the same lines.
“I have actually auditioned in front of people whose eyes were closed and they had virtually fallen asleep. I think that’s why it is still a thrill when you get a part you really want.
“I have turned down a lot of things because I really didn’t think they were for me and I have also taken things I didn’t want to do but needed the money at the time. That’s what happens in this profession.
“You can’t be very choosy at the start, maybe later, but not in those early days. Everyone said I was an overnight success but it was actually about 10 years in the making.
“I enjoy my work and I’m incredibly grateful to find myself in a position where the phone still rings and the calls come in from directors I respect. That is very important to me.
“The movie set is where I am at home. I don’t like the red carpet really. It can be quite daunting trying to live up to people’s expectations. They expect to see you as you are on screen and that is rarely possible.
“When you walk on the carpet, there are lots of voices all at once trying to attract your attention or even ask you questions and you simply cannot answer them.
“I hate ignoring people, but you have no choice really other than to just sail on and wave.”
That is another side of life that Naomi enjoys, however; not being recognised. She says she could walk through Shoreham and few people would know who she was. “It’s great, I never get recognised on the street,” she laughs.
“I’m lucky that way. People see me as the dolled-up movie-star type on the red carpet, but in real life, I don’t look anything like that. I blend easily into a crowd. I have been with famous people who are recognised and I am either ignored or asked if I would take a photo of them with whoever it is. I love it.
“The other things is that they don’t remember your name. A lot of actors find that happens – people say things like, “Hey, aren’t you the girl who was in that film about the gorilla? It’s funny. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
Naomi was indeed in King Kong which was a huge success back when it was released in 2005, but also many other films of course, including Penguin Bloom, Boss Level, Once upon A Time in Staten Island and at The Burning Season.
Does she spend much time in Britain? “Not just in Britain but I have been back to Kent many times and I love the fact that my life began in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
“Whenever I’m asked where I was born, I tell them that I was born in Shoreham in Kent. They love the idea that I was born in a village in the Garden of England and I explain what a great county it is for fruit growing.
“My work means that I spend a lot of time travelling about, just as I did when I was a little girl growing up in Britain and then in Australia. But I am no stranger to where I was born and I know quite a lot about Kent’s history.
“Perhaps one day I shall be asked to make a movie based in Kent. I wouldn’t hesitate; it would be the best location ever.”