Mulholland Dr.
© courtesy Everett Collection
“As for Marilyn Monroe, what an extraordinary life she did have, from her very humble beginnings, what she came from and where she ended up. There’s a lot of tragedy in her life, but there was also a very highly spirited and charismatic person. I’ve been refreshing myself on her movies, obviously some very classic films. I’ve been making mental notes from the novel. And the movie will be quite an undertaking.”

Like Marilyn, who moved around a lot as a child, Watts says there was a lot of love but also chaos in her own early life, and much moving around in England and Wales, especially after her parents divorced when she was 4 and then when her English father, Peter, tragically died three years later. “I am comfortable with chaos. I don’t mind it. In fact, I almost get a bit twitchy when it’s too quiet.”

Her father was a tour manager with the famous English classic rock band Pink Floyd. She says he was a workaholic but says his passion for his work is still a constant source of inspiration for her. “Both of his children, Ben and I, ended up being two creative people who love their work.”

King Kong
© Universal
And her Welsh mother, Myfanwy, who later moved her two kids to Australia when Naomi was 14, offered something else. “Mum is a survivor. That’s the heart and spirit of who she is. She is an adventurer as well, a gypsy, which also rubbed off on me. She likes to travel; she likes new and inspirational things. She, like me, likes a challenge. Bring it on!”

So how does a full-time actress and mother with a bit of wanderlust in her soul look equally at ease playing with her family in Central Park or in dramatic designer dresses on the red carpet? How does she pull it all off during the busiest time of her life?

Her formula includes Pilates, yoga, working out in the gym, swimming, good nutrition, and, perhaps most importantly, the help of a trainer. Watts is refreshingly honest when she says with a laugh, “I have a love-hate relationship with exercise. I don’t necessarily enjoy exercise a lot. I’m not a mad enthusiast. The minute I get bored I need to change it up. I often use a trainer because I need motivation. It’s not like I jump out of bed and say, ‘All right, let’s get to the gym or jog around the reservoir in Central Park.’”

Mother and Child
© Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection
Pilates was one discipline that helped her through both pregnancies and also helped her get back in shape for work. “I used Pilates a lot because you don’t want to be too aggressive in your workouts during your pregnancy. So good gentle disciplines, like Pilates, swimming, and yoga, were very helpful during [my pregnancy] and after my first baby. But as you reach 40 your body changes, and I found it didn’t recover as easily from my second baby. It might not have looked like that because I don’t hold that much extra weight on my frame. But it was totally different for me, particularly in my stomach and core. A Pilates regimen is all centered on the core — stretching it and making it strong and flexible. So I got very aggressive in my workout regime to get back into fighting shape, so to speak, with my instructor.”

As for nutrition, despite her svelte look, Watts says she never deprives herself of food. “I’m moderate, but I certainly don’t go to a place and say I’m not going to have all sorts of things. The thing is, unfortunately, the minute I start putting restrictions on my diet is when I start craving things. So I just don’t bother with it and eat whatever I want. My metabolism, knock on wood, has been pretty good.”