further down the
by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
I apologias if this has been posted. But I did search. if it has.
Please moderator. be my guest and delete this thread
How Naomi Watts became the
''Ring'' leader. What did the ''Mulholland Drive'' star have that
Jennifer Connelly and Gwenyth Paltrow didn't? by Rebecca
Gwyneth Paltrow might have been the one to
cough up hair balls. Jennifer Connelly almost gushed blood from her
nose. Kate Beckinsale could have caused the horse to commit suicide.
Instead, the box office phenomenon of the moment, the supernatural
thriller ''The Ring,'' is being carried by a little-known Australian
actress whose greatest claim to fame was a starring role in David
Lynch's 2001 art-house noir, ''Mulholland Drive.'' The choice seems
to have paid off, but banking on Naomi Watts to carry ''The Ring''
was enough to cause the filmmakers some initial chills of their
Director Gore Verbinski's remake of Hideo Nakata's 1998
Japanese smash ''Ringu'' -- the first film in a successful trilogy
-- showcases Watts as Rachel Keller, a cynical reporter and single
mom who watches a videotape that causes its viewers to die seven
days later. In January 2001, DreamWorks production chiefs Walter F.
Parkes and Laurie MacDonald watched a copy of ''Ringu,'' on
videotape, and within three hours the husband-and-wife team agreed
to pony up more than $1 million for the remake rights. (By
comparison, ''Ringu'''s entire budget was just $1.2 million.)
Verbinski, who had directed DreamWorks' ''Mouse Hunt'' and ''The
Mexican'' for the pair, signed on soon after, along with
screenwriter Ehren Kruger (''Scream 3''). All agreed that the script
could remain fairly faithful to the Japanese film for the first hour
(''Ringu'''s second half, which emphasized a psychic character,
would need rejiggering). But what they couldn't agree on was a lead
''These movies work best without a marquee star,''
insists Verbinski, who as casting began in summer 2001 was still
smarting from critics' drubbing of ''The Mexican,'' which starred
marquee names Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. ''But there is a
knee-jerk response from a studio, because [they're] spending money,
to go out and get somebody.'' Paltrow was considered, as was
Connelly (who hadn't yet made a splash with ''A Beautiful Mind'').
But when Connelly expressed concerns about ''The Ring'''s moral
ambiguities -- in particular, the depiction of Rachel as an
inattentive mother -- and requested script changes, the producers
became increasingly antsy. They began to consider both Beckinsale
(''Pearl Harbor'') and Watts, whose performance in the
then-unreleased ''Mulholland Drive'' was said to be strong. Parkes
and MacDonald secured a screening of ''Mulholland Drive,'' Verbinski
flew to London to meet Watts, and the deal was sealed. ''People were
like, 'You're going to get pigeonholed with psychological
thrillers,''' says Watts. ''But I just thought the character was
really good. She's a reasonably flawed woman, a little bit
self-obsessed, and not the greatest mother on the planet.''
Watts agreed to report weeks later to the set in
Massachusetts, but at the last minute, she was rerouted to Seattle.
Tom Duffield, ''The Ring'''s production designer, had planned to
return from a location scout on Sept. 11 (aboard flight No. 11, from
Boston to L.A.). Though Duffield was lucky enough to miss his
flight, the filmmakers weren't willing to shoot in a state that
required cross-country air travel from L.A. Not that filming closer
to home made conditions easier. ''The hours were horrendous, much
worse than usual,'' says Watts, who was required in nearly every
scene. And an ardent perfectionist was at the helm. ''It was six-day
weeks when we filmed in Seattle, five-day weeks in L.A., and the
last three days of the week would be 18 hours,'' the actress
Verbinski makes no apologies for the grueling schedule
or for his determination. ''It's always a battle,'' he says.
''Gravity pulls you towards mediocrity. Walter and I have done three
movies together, and [we've had] healthy fights, but they've been
drawn out and ugly. On this one, there was a lovely, healthy kind of
[acceptance] that this is how we work, and the film will be better
because of it. I mean, you're always over budget, there's never
enough money, so okay.''
Maybe not enough, but certainly
plenty: The final budget for ''The Ring'' neared $50 million, which
means that the movie will need to be more than a Halloween sleeper.
But with a first-weekend take of $15 million, it's no surprise that
Parkes and MacDonald are already considering a sequel, in which
Watts is contractually obliged to star. ''We'll see,'' says Watts.
''But if all the elements are right, why not?'' In other words,
Tolkien and Wagner might not be the only ones with a ring