Naomi Watts arrives for the Toronto Film Festival premiere of her new film,… (Carolyn Cole )
TORONTO — Naomi Watts has portrayed a number of women dealing with devastation, most notably the recovering drug addict in "21 Grams," the 2003 film that earned her an Oscar nomination.
In the highly charged drama "The Impossible," which premiered Sunday night at the Toronto Film Festival, Watts adds serious physical pain to the psychic wounds, playing a woman whose family is literally torn apart by a tsunami striking the coast of Thailand. It's an altogether different kind of role for Watts, acted mostly through things that aren't stated.
As she told us during an interview with the film's director, Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage"), if you added up the movie's dialogue, it might amount to a mere two pages.
PHOTOS: The scene at the Toronto International Film Festival 2012
"The rest is about physical stuff or groans or calling each other’s names," Watts says.
"Lots of close-ups too," Bayona adds. "I could always focus on Naomi's eyes."
Watts spent a solid month filming the tsunami scenes in a water tank. How do you act while being swept through a torrent of water? You don't, Watts says. You simply react.
"They had this thing worked out where the current was coming this way and we were in these sort of giant flowerpots almost," Watts says. "And we were being thrust on a kind of track. And it wasn’t like, 'Oh, I’m going to choose to do this in this take.' You were just in it and swallowing water and trying to get above the water and also make it good and go below and up, and so at the end of each time you went down, which was about 80,000 times, you were spitting out water and gasping for air."
"It was intense work," adds Watts, 43. "For anyone, but at my age, boy, it was a workout."
"The Impossible" opens in theaters Dec. 21.
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