Recasting the Star Wars saga: Naomi Watts as Shmi Skywalker
Here’s another sort of thankless role from the prequel trilogy. As Shmi Skywalker, the woman who gave birth to Anakin via miraculous conception, actress Pernilla August mostly just had to look solemn and quietly wise. Shmi doesn’t say a lot, but there are a few shots of her looking meaningfully into the camera in The Phantom Menace, and she gets a death scene in Attack of the Clones. That’s a movie mother for you: knowing looks and death.
August’s performance didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but then again, there wasn’t a whole lot to the role. Casting an acting heavyweight like Naomi Watts in the part might help it make more of an impact.
First off, Watts is a terrific actress with a lot of screen presence—go check her out in movies like Mulholland Drive and 21 Grams if you want examples. Beyond that, she has the kind of face you need for his part. There’s a lot of warmth to her smile, but it’s not cloying. She can look wearied and weather-beaten, but not so much that it’s depressing. As Shmi, she’ll be spending a lot of time looking significantly at things, so her face had better be interesting to watch.
Next: Freaky space alien #1