Naomi Watts had already been a working actress for over a decade when she earned notice as a promising newcomer in David Lynch's Cannes Film Festival prizewinner Mulholland Drive (2001).
Born in Britain and raised in Australia, Watts began acting in her teens, landing her first film role in For Love Alone (1986). Watts subsequently appeared with future Hollywood headliners Nicole Kidman and Thandie Newton in John Duigan's disarming teen romance Flirting (1991). Watts's next film with Duigan, Wide Sargasso Sea (1992), was not so well received. After her first taste of Hollywood with Joe Dante's schlock movie homage Matinee (1992), Watts nabbed a starring role as Jimmy Smits's disturbed student in George Miller's little seen courtroom drama Gross Misconduct (1993). Watts then starred as Jet Girl to Lori Petty's Tank Girl (1995), but the science fiction fantasy suffered an ignominious box office fate. After a series of TV movies and thrillers, including Sleepwalkers (1997) and Children of the Corn IV (1996), Watts appeared in Marshall Herskovitz's high-toned Venetian courtesan costumer Dangerous Beauty (1998) and successful TV docudrama The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer (1999).