Why Naomi Watts and Heath Ledger Knew Their Relationship "Wasn't a Forever Plan"
Who: Two-time Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts, 50, and the late Oscar-winning actor Heath Ledger.
How They Met: The Australian duo was thrown together in the spring of 2002 on the set of action/adventure film Ned Kelly. Years later, Watts told Parade that she hadn’t been “that familiar” with Ledger’s work at the time but was immediately captivated by his intensity. “I was like, ‘Wow! This guy is alive.’ It was just something deep in his eyes. You could look into them, and they would tell a thousand stories in one glance. There was a wonderful mixture of power and fragility at work in everything he did, which just pulls you in. His strength didn’t scare you. It intrigued you. And his fragility touched you,” she explained.
Watts and Ledger soon became each other’s faithful plus-ones, attending film premieres, awards shows, and industry events together like it was their job (which, uh, it was).
Why We Love(d) Them: I know we throw this label around a lot, but I think Naomi and Heath might actually have been Hollywood’s most amicable exes.
Heath stood by through thick and thin while they were together — including this terribly awkward interview with Billy Bush.
Watts has been effusive in her praise of Ledger since his unexpected passing in 2008. She’s posted tributes to the actor several times through the years, calling him a “beautiful soul” on the 10-year anniversary of his death and wishing the “darling heart” a happy birthday in 2018.
"We had a beautiful relationship, only a couple of years, but he was a man who was completely full of joy, and there was a lot of laughing and affection. He was really a very special soul and made a great impact on my life. And a great actor, but I know there was so much more to come,” Watts told More magazine in 2011.
When They Peaked: The year was 2002 and Heath and Naomi (probably) wanted to make a bold sartorial statement at the Vogue Fashion Awards. So Heath broke out his dirtiest combat boots and Naomi grabbed the sort of top Anastasia Steele would wear to a renaissance fair and they called it a day.
The Breakup: They split briefly in October 2003, a decision Heath’s publicist (and sister) Kate Ledger attributed to the pace of their respective careers. “At this time in their lives both are busy pursuing careers which are taking them in different directions. They remain close friends,” she said in a statement.
They reunited before the end of the year and later attended the 2004 Oscars and SAG Awards together.
By mid-2004 Ledger had left for Canada to shoot Brokeback Mountain and he and Watts had gone their separate ways. Ledger, a true gentleman, declined to publicly discuss the end of their relationship, but the split reportedly had a bit to do with his and Watts's 11-year age gap. Watts, then 35 to Ledger’s 25, reportedly wanted to start a family, but Ledger wasn’t there yet. Ironically, he and Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams would welcome a baby daughter little more than a year later.
In a rare interview concerning the split, Watts described it as somewhat inevitable. “I think deep down we both knew there wasn’t a forever plan,” she said.
Where They Are Now: About a year after splitting from Ledger, Watts took up with actor Liev Schreiber. The couple welcomed son Sasha in 2007, and a second son, Samuel, the following year. Watts and Schreiber amicably split in 2016. The Mulholland Drive actress has been linked to her Gypsy co-star Billy Crudup since 2017.
It’s been a busy summer for Watts, who stars in Showtime miniseries The Loudest Voice alongside fellow Aussie Russell Crowe, and opposite Octavia Spencer and Tim Roth in Luce, out this Friday.
Ledger and Williams split in September 2007, just a few months before his accidental overdose the following January.
He was honored posthumously with an Oscar for his performance in The Dark Knight.