In 2004, a tsunami rocked Indonesia and parts of south Asia, claiming over 2.3 lakh victims and scarring several others for life. Now, the tragedy is being brought to the screen in the Naomi Watts-starrer, The Impossible. The actor has already bagged Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, and looks set for an Oscar nod too. This is what she had to say about her portrayal of a real-life victim, Maria Belon.
What drew you to this role?
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the film at first. My agent told me there was a movie about the tsunami, and right away I thought, ‘Gosh, that doesn’t sound right.’ But when I read the script, it was so clear and true. Later, I found out that a lot of it was based on Maria’s (Belon, real-life victim and inspiration for the role) words and experiences. As a mother, I could identify with the role of a woman who got separated from her kids during the tsunami. I felt her pain and struggle. In fact, it helped me strengthen the connection with my own kids.
Did you meet Maria to prepare for the role? How did that help?
I’ve been in touch with her throughout, and her courage has really inspired me. When I first met her, I was nervous and didn’t know where to begin. I felt like a mere actor while she had lived through this horrendous thing. I tried to understand each and every aspect of her suffering, because I had to get into her mindset. Even if we couldn’t speak face to face, we would exchange mails. She’s always been there to help.
What is your personal recollection of the tsunami?
I remember watching the news with total horror, and staying glued to it. But, I don't think I understood then as much as I do now, after the making of the movie. We actually had a lot more dialogues than you will see in the film, but we just couldn’t say them. Every time you opened your mouth, you swallowed a gallon of water, so you were lucky to even get out a ‘Lucas!’ or ‘Mom!’ We met a few other survivors too, and the director, Juan Bayona, actually involved them in the film. They were really helpful.