“Thrashing with the underwater tank, that was five or six weeks, and it was incredibly strenuous, and I had a horrific cough that I couldn't get rid of,” she said. “You know, if you're in the water, you're not going to get rid of a cough, and that went on and on and on, with all kinds of medications and, yes, it was tough.
“There was one day that went particularly bad with a technical issue, and I couldn't get out of the chair and I'd already reached my limit with holding my breath, and it just gives you a tiny, tiny glimpse of how panicked you can get. But (Maria) was beyond panic. She was in a place where it was like, ‘OK, done.' I mean, she became full of the need to survive when she got above water. But, I mean, she was under, she was under so long ...
“I would say that the physical stuff is harder,” Watts said. “I think I find the emotional stuff quite fun.”
For psychological preparedness, Watts recalled: “You know, it just, I got pulled in emotionally. When I first heard about the idea of making a movie about the tsunami, it didn't sound right. You know, how do you do that, without it becoming spectacular, which is so wrong.
“So many lives lost and everything. But then I heard it was Juan Antonio directing it, and I thought, ‘Well, this is a proper filmmaker. I saw “The Orphanage,” and I've got to read the script.' You know, what's he going to be doing with this? The minute I read the script, it just felt rooted in truth. It just felt necessary in a way, because it was, I don't know, like an intimate piece of storytelling about this family, as well as addressing this tsunami.”
Watts said she spent many hours with the real Maria Belon, getting to know the woman she was portraying.
“Oh, she's an impressive woman, and I said a few times, if I met her without knowing that she'd gone through the tsunami, like at a dinner party or something, I would probably find her intimidating, because of the way she speaks about life, and her view on life, and her sense of positivity and fearlessness is not something that I relate to.”
Watts laughed, adding, “I'm full of cynicism. ... She's just full of courage, and she is so centered and collected. She said, and the one thing she kept speaking about, was that she felt she was sure of every move and decision that she made. And I just don't know how to do that.”
Travel and accommodations provided by Summit Entertainment.