By Dave Karger
PLAYING A RECOVERING ADDICT who slips back into her abusive habits, Naomi Watts may not look her best in 21 Grams, but it's not because of any makeup-chair magic. Told that some viewers thought the usually stunning Watts had some prosthetics installed around her mouth for the film, she says, "Oh, really? No, it's just horrible lighting!" Which isn't to say she's complaining. Watts' devastating performance as Cristina, a young mother whose entire existence is shattered by a fatal car accident, is precisely what the 35-year old actress has been working toward after a decade of struggling through constant rejection from filmmakers and casting directors. "For 10 years, I read great things," she says, "but I wasn't able to get in the room, much less on the set."
Her brilliant, psychotic turn in David Lynch's dark Mulholland Drive in 2001 changed all that. But with her newfound success (including the lead role in the hit horror flick The Ring), Watts, who was born in England and raised in Australia, is still drawn to grittier projects like 21 Grams, whose tough plot points-including heart transplants and gunfights-are sure to frighten away some audiences. "I don't think it's depressing," she ; says of the film. "I think it's confronting. The subject matter is intense and sometimes hard on the emotional system, but it's engaging." After winning several critics' prizes for Mulholland Drive, she was overlooked by Academy voters-which makes this, her first Oscar nomination, even sweeter. But true to her unfailingly determined work ethic, Watts seems more focused on her future; she has five films set for release this year. "Whatever is said about roles drying up, I intend to keep working," she says. "Certainly now, the roles couldn't be more interesting-playing mothers, divorcees. I think it's going to be exciting to play a mother of teenagers. The longer your life, the deeper it gets."
© 2004 Entertainment Weekly Inc.
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