|Naomi Watts with Chad Everett in the audition scene in Mulholland Drive (dir. David Lynch, 2001).|
In one of the many astonishing scenes in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), the aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts), fresh off the plane from “Deep River, Ontario,” goes to read for a part in a Hollywood movie. Judging from the scripted dialogue she and her co-star have been given to rehearse, the movie is a not-very-good crime drama in which a young woman attempts to fend off the sexual advances of her father’s best friend. (She: “You’re playing a dangerous game here. If you’re trying to blackmail me, it’s not going to work!” He: “You know what I want. It’s not that difficult.” She: “Get out, before I call my dad! He trusts you!” Etc.) We’ve just seen Betty run through her lines with Rita (Laura Elena Haring), delivering them in the same mannered, slightly artificial tone that Watts herself uses to play Betty and which passes for normal acting in a Lynch movie. But the audition finds Betty transformed: she now infuses the lines with a quivering, hushed sexuality. She reinterprets the power dynamics of the scene so that she becomes the seducer rather than the seduced. As she delivers the final lines she pulls away from her scene partner in disgust and a single tear runs down her cheek.