After years as a struggling actress, Watts came to attention in David Lynch's psychological thriller Mulholland Drive (2001). The following year, she enjoyed box-office success with her role as Rachel Keller in The Ring (2002), the remake of a successful Japanese horror film. She then received nominations at the Academy Awards and the Screen Actors' Guild Awards in the Best Actress categories for her portrayal of Cristina Peck in Alejandro González Iñárritu's neo-noir 21 Grams (2003). Her subsequent films include David O. Russell's comedy I Heart Huckabees (2004), King Kong (2005), a remake of the 1933 film of the same name, the crime-thriller Eastern Promises (2007), and the Tom Tykwer-directed thriller The International (2009). Since then, Watts has portrayed Valerie Plame Wilson in the biographical drama Fair Game (2010) and Helen Gandy in Clint Eastwood's biographical drama J. Edgar (2011). For her leading role as Maria Bennett in the disaster film The Impossible (2012), she received further nominations for the Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress and a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.
In 2002, Watts was included in People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People . In 2006, she became a goodwill ambassador for Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS , which helps to raise awareness of AIDS-related issues. She has participated in several fundraisers for the cause, and she is presented as an inaugural member of AIDS Red Ribbon Awards.
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Stars, they’re just like us. Even a two-time Oscar nominee, it turns out, can fall prey to new-home anxiety. “I mean, look at this place,” Naomi Watts says. “Is it too big? Are we taking on more than we should? Maybe we should have stayed where we were? I don’t know!” And then the actress throws her arms up and lets out a lovely, nervous laugh.