Emily Watson was born in England as the daughter of an architect and English professor. Watson’s journey to become an actor wasn’t easy, her initial application for drama school was rejected and she worked as a waitress and secretary for three years before finally being admitted to the London Drama Studio. But she had a turn of good luck when she landed the lead female role in Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves for which she received an Oscar nomination, after Helen Bonham Carter left the project.
In Steven Spielberg‘s new movie War Horse, Emily Watson plays Rose Naracott, the mother of Albert, a young man that develops a strong bond of friendship with Joey, a horse that is sold to the British calvary during World War I. In a recent interview with Watson, she discusses filming the movie and what its like to be a mother and juggle an acting career.
Q: What was the most memorable part of shooting the film?
Dartmore is the most beautiful part of England with ancient outcrops of rock. But getting a call from Steven Spielberg is, is not a bad day. It’s not a bad day.
Q: What is your favorite scene in the movie?
I think the no-man’s land sequence. Where, when those young boys are running through the, you know, they go over the top and they’re running through and then there’s the gas and then the horses, all that sequence is so powerful. I, it, you know, it’s the film to me then suddenly elevates into something else.
Q: How do you juggle being a mother with your film work?
Well, the longest I’ve ever been away was three weeks. And that was a disaster. It was really, really horrible. And before that it’s only ever been a week. It’s really a logistical nightmare. It was much easier before Juliet my daughter was in school and I used to just take them with me everywhere which was great. And I have the best nanny in the universe, she’s absolutely brilliant. And my husband is fantastic with the kids. And he works from home. And you know, so we somehow always manage to make it work. But it’s the first question I ask when a job comes up is, where, how long?
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment as a mother?
I think that, well your children kind of learn things from you by osmosis, don’t they, there are things that you don’t realize that you’re doing that are good. And I went in to school a few weeks ago and had a meeting with the teacher, you know, one of those, you know. And she said, you have a lot of books in your house, don’t you? And I was like, yeah, how’d you, she said, Juliet is just absorbing stories and literature from you having a lot of books and reading a lot in the house. And I, it had never really occurred to me that that was in any way unusual or, you know, but she said it’s really, really a thing.
Q: What advice would you give on how to balance a successful career and being a mom?
It’s so hard. I just say, give yourself a break ‘cause it’s really hard. And don’t believe it when you think other people are making a success of it and it’s all smooth and easy ‘cause it isn’t. You know it just feels like there’s never enough of you to go around. But hey, I am having my cake and eating it, so. I’m very lucky.
Q: How did you find Steven Spielberg as a director compared to other directors you’ve worked with?
Steven is, you know he’s obviously done a lot of incredible technical feats and he’s a great action director, but he’s still very focused on performance. But I’d say the thing that those three very, very different people (Robert Altman,Lars Von Trier, Steven Spielberg) have in common is that they are all completely compelled to tell stories.
Q: Were you familiar with this story prior to doing the movie?
I saw the stage show in London. And I was eight months pregnant. And you know what that’s like. So after, after about ten seconds, I turned to my husband and I said, I don’t think I’m gonna get through this. Yeah, it’s very emotional thing, but it’s, I kind of think he’s, although despite it being a big, lush, beautiful, you know, a boy in love with a horse and their great adventure. It’s kind of an anti-war film for kids as well, I think. It’s, in a very, very simple way, like, you know, war is inhumane. And the way we treat animals reveals our humanity. You know, it’s a very simple thing.
Q: What projects do you have upcoming?
I’ve just finished doing this thing in Mexico which is called Little Boy. And it’s about a kid in California in the Second World War whose father is in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. And he thinks that he has magic powers and can bring him home through his magic powers. And I’m doing a few days on Anna Karenina in London.
A HUGE thank you to Disney and DreamWorks for making it 100% possible for me to be able to speak with the beautifully classy Emily Watson.