Entering the World of Noah Baumbach: A Conversation with Naomi Watts for the release of While We’re Young
Two couples cross paths in Noah Baumbach’s inter-generational ode to a youth-obsessed society, While We’re Young.
As Cornelia and Josh, Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller play a middle-aged couple facing a crossroads in their lives while their youthful counterparts, portrayed by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver, are just getting started, brimming with energy and enthusiasm.
Set in New York, the thespian foursome are immersed in an elite world of documentary film making, albeit with rather different approaches.
Immediately drawn to the script, Naomi Watts, 46, waited three years for the film to be made, declaring today that she finally lives up to the “middle-aged” requirements of the story...
What is it about the world of Noah Baumbach? What does he give an actor?
A great script to start with that’s pretty much flawless; his writing is really wonderful. I think the way he plays out each character with a unique voice is really impressive, and rhythmically his dialogue works. I think every time you take on a new role, you’re trying to help find that voice and you add your own bits and pieces along the way but with Noah it’s already done.
Noah is tapping into the obsession with youth culture. Do we allow ourselves to age or do we try and hold on to something from our youth?
This is the million dollar question and I think when you see the whole film you walk away with this feeling of: We’re all the same, we all think its better somewhere else; its better being older if you’re younger - or its better being younger when we’re older. And if we could just trust the moment that we’re in and live it in the way that you best can embrace it, it would be much better for all of us.
How did you relate to playing a woman who has run out of time to have children and feels she won’t be fulfilled otherwise? Is that a myth that every woman is sold?
I think it’s very much a part of society and I don’t know that any woman could ever not think about that at some point - even making the choice not to do it and getting to the place of peace of choosing not to be a parent, there would have still been some struggle in between. I’m not a man but I don’t think it would occupy their minds as much. I’m completely respectful of anyone who chooses not to have children, it’s completely OK. Its hard work being a mum so you’ve got to want it.
And Cornelia changes her mind and decides she does want children?
What I love about Cornelia is that she’s open to changing her mind. Its not that she made a better decision, that’s not the point of it, it’s just that she was absolutely squared away on that subject and thought she was completely fine with it and then she changes her mind - not because it’s the better decision - but for her, she came to that point where she felt that was the right move.
What was your experience of 20s vs. 40s? Which were the best years for you?
I think whether you’ve got children or not you’re just more aware of others as you get out of your 20s. In your 20s - and these are generalizations of course - I feel like I didn’t care about as many things or as many people, or even myself, as much. There’s more recklessness and more ruthlessness; you’re not as considerate of how things land with other people I think.
Noah Baumbach, Ben Stiller and yourself are all New Yorkers. I have this romantic notion that you all got together and made this movie in a trendy Brooklyn loft somewhere?
The first rehearsal was in a brownstone in Brooklyn where we filmed. We were supposed to make this film a few years earlier and it didn’t happen for whatever reason and then Ben was busy or I was busy and then it went away and then they were going to put a different woman in it. . .
It seems impossible to imagine anyone but you in this role?
There were a few options there for a second, because maybe my timing was wrong or maybe they went off me, maybe they wanted a younger persona and I remember feeling sad about that because I really connected with the script right away - but then they came back and I was really glad. It was also my year where I was looking to get away from these dark, emotional pieces that I seemed to be doing over and over again so it was perfect timing for me. Also I think it’s better that we were both in our mid-40s, rather than someone who was 38 or 41 even.
You couldn’t empathize as much with younger actors playing these characters who are meant to be middle-aged?
Yeah, I think you want to know that they’re really feeling the loss of their youth and their fear of the next chapter.
Are you hobo or hipster?
Neither! The funny thing is that these people who pose themselves as this incredibly hip young couple turn out to be not as hip as they think they are. That’s what I love about it - this endless fascination with the youth culture is there in all of us and the irony of them using vinyl and typewriters and oh, let’s leave it to questions and not know the answer, let’s try and remember - we’re fooled into believing they are so pure and that’s why we think they’re worth loving; that becomes the genesis of our crush on them and then we figure out they’re not as authentic as they promise.
WHILE WE’RE YOUNG IS OUT NOW