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Mulholland mamas: meet Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, two actresses poised to hit the big time following their sizzling lesbian pas de deux in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

In David Lynch's world, disdain for linear narrative resides comfortably in a surreal, painterly package. His new Mulholland Drive is no exception, and its suspenseful palette won him a Best Director award at Cannes. It also happens to include what's sure to be this fall's steamiest lesbian love scene.

The luscious duo is a multicontinental pairing of English-born, Australian-bred Naomi Watts and voluptuous Laura Harring, who was born in Mexico, raised in Texas, educated in Switzerland, and employed in India as a social worker. While both relatively unknown actresses were thrilled for an opportunity to work with Lynch, they also were also a bit fearful of the demands of a director whose style is as enigmatic as his storytelling. "David is a daredevil, but you can't help but trust him," says Watts. "He has this ability to make you like putty in his hands so you give everything he wants and beyond."

The film opens with Rita (Harring) riding in a limousine. She is just about to be shot dead by her limo driver when a head-on collision kills everyone except her. Wearing a black cocktail dress, Rita stumbles out of the wreck into the dark streets of Los Angeles and sneaks into a Hollywood apartment whose tenant has just left for vacation. The tenant is the aunt of Watts's character, Betty, so when Betty--a Canadian with a heart full of hope that she will become a movie star--arrives at her aunt's house, the mysterious Rita is there to welcome her.

Rita, it seems, suffers from amnesia, and Betty determines to help uncover the mystery of the dark, sexy woman for whom she eventually falls. The authentic chemistry between the two straight actresses is testament as much to their talent as to Lynch's ability to make his actors comfortable. "David was so reassuring," recalls Harring. "He made us feel safe, and we understood that making love was the natural evolution of these characters."

That doesn't mean they didn't feel embarrassed when the director yelled "cut" in between takes of the love scene. "We giggled a lot," recalls Harring. "But the fact that we're both pretty comfortable with our bodies made it a lot easier." Certainly, their stunning physiques must have helped: Both practice yoga, and Harring is a competitive tango dancer.

Their performances earned kudos in Variety, where Todd McCarthy wrote that Harring "offers a haunting echo of Rita Hayworth in her dual American/Latin persona" and that Watts's performance "should decisively put [her] on the Hollywood and international map."

But Mulholland Drive's journey to the big screen was arduous. In fact, the movie started out as a two-hour ABC television pilot but was unceremoniously dropped by the network. Nearly two years later, the French crone to the rescue when StudioCanal bought the project.

The roller-coaster ride of a show that was on, off, and finally on again was torture for Watts. While she has been a working actress for more than 12 years, with credits that include Tank Girl and Wide Sargasso Sea, this was the role she was most proud of. When she got the call that the show was canned, Watts recalls, "As they say in England, I was gutted." Yet Harring, a former Miss USA winner who appeared on the Aaron Spelling production Sunset Beach and began her feature film career in genre works such as Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 and the lambada epic The Forbidden Dance, was tree to her optimistic nature: "I kept calling Naomi and David telling them, 'I know it isn't dead.'"

Moviegoers should be pleased that Harring's intuition proved correct. Mulholland Drive is a dark yarn told with film noir sensibilities--and with such unexpected plot twists and turns that at times even the actors had no idea where the story would take them. "David would never divulge anything he was thinking," says Watts. "When we had questions he would smile in delight at our torture. But we realized, that's life. Because really, you never know what's going to happen along the way."

Stukin also writes for Time.
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Author:Stukin, Stacie
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Interview
Date:Oct 9, 2001
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