True story. On her first day on the Atlanta set of Insurgent, a black-wigged Naomi Watts was so indistinguishable from 400 tough-looking rebellious extras that a wardrobe supervisor chastised her for being in the wrong costume.
"This person thought Naomi was disobeying the wardrobe commands, she had no idea it was Naomi Watts," says producer Lucy Fisher. "Naomi had to finally explain who she was. We did sort of want her unrecognisable."
Score one for the filmmakers in the second film from Veronica Roth's best-selling Divergent book series, opening this week. The perennially blond Watts, 46, steps out as the mysterious rebel leader Evelyn - archrival to Kate Winslet's icy-blond villain Jeanine. She joins series newcomers Octavia Spencer, as the head of the Amity faction, and Daniel Dae Kim, who portrays the leader of Candor........
Normally it's Watts' partner of 10 years, Ray Donovan star Liev Schreiber, who plays the butt-kicking roles in the family.
"I'm generally in the kitchen-sink dramas, no guns involved," says Watts. "But it's not like Liev had to sit me down and go, 'OK, here's how you do the eyebrow arch. And this is how you hold your gun.' "
In fact, the athletic Watts has had her share of action training in films such as in 1995's Tank Girl and even playing CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2010's Fair Game. She just doesn't always feel the need to jump into the fray.
Her reluctance began when filming the big-budget 2005 epic King Kong. Watts did a number of stunts, and seriously hurt her back in one backward fall. The injury still bothers her.
"I remember being so beaten down by the experience, I sort of promised myself that was the end of my action movies," says Watts. "My four and fifth lumbar are not good and my disc bulges. I have to be careful."
Stunt people can take the falls; Watts' job is to ratchet up the intrigue. Evelyn is a role which will continue to reveal itself in the upcoming two Divergent chapters, Allegiant: Part 1 in 2016 and the conclusion Part 2 in 2017.
The fact that Evelyn is the mother to rebel Four, played by 30-year-old Theo James, makes the screen equation all the more perplexing.
When James received a picture of his screen mother in her dark-haired guise, he sent back a simple message, Fisher says: "That's one hot mama."
Watts also is coming off one of her greatest years, with her role as Lesley in Oscar best-picture winner Birdman and as pregnant Russian stripper Daka in St. Vincent alongside Bill Murray. The latter role earned Watts a surprise Screen Actors Guild Award nomination while also hardening her up for battle.
Watts says she steeled herself for working alongside Murray.
"He's a comedic great and I had not proven myself," says Watts. "And I heard he likes who he likes. Thankfully, we got on from the get-go."
Watts managed to win over Murray ("He had me in stitches"), but she still took her blows, this time from pole dancing.
"The first lesson I tried, I hurt my neck," Watts laughs. "I was like, 'I'm not doing that again.' "