Naomi Watts Gets Candid About Her Father's Drug-Related Death

By Paul Gaita 07/18/17

A fan's photo pushed Watts to open up about her relationship with her father and the impact of his death.

Naomi Watts

Actress Naomi Watts has few memories of her father, Peter Watts, who served as sound engineer and road manager for Pink Floyd before dying from an apparent heroin overdose when she was seven years old.

But the two-time Oscar nominee, who currently stars in the Netflix series Gypsy, recently spoke about her relationship with her father after receiving a photo of him from a Pink Floyd fan. According to Watts, the image, which was the first clear image she'd seen of her father, moved her not only to tears, but to speak about their relationship and the impact of her father's death for the first time.

Watts joined Pink Floyd as the band's road manager in 1967 and was an integral part of its tours until parting ways with the group in 1974. He can be seen at right on the rear cover of the band's 1969 album Ummagumma, and his voice and manic laughter can be heard throughout Dark Side of the Moon (1973), most notably on the tracks "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me."

Naomi was born in 1968, the second of two children (her older brother, photographer Ben Watts, was born in 1967) with model-turned-costume and set designer Myfanwy "Miv" Roberts. The couple split in 1972, and Peter Watts married Patricia "Puddie" Watts (who can also be heard on Dark Side of the Moon) before dying from a suspected heroin overdose in the UK in 1976.

Prior to seeing the photo provided by the fan, Watts' memories of her father were distant and unfocused. "You've got to understand, I've got maybe three photos of my dad, and maybe two memories," she said. "And all the photos of him are either out of focus or he's a tiny speck in the background."

Her life became more complicated after her parents' divorce. Roberts struggled to make ends meet with two young children, which required frequent relocation. "I moved around a lot when I was a kid," said Watts. "I mean, I went to nine different schools in England. [There was] a lot of moving, a lot of reinventing myself. 'How do I get into that group? How do I get accepted? Who should I be? Who do you want me to be?'"

Their lives plunged into further turmoil following her father's death. "When he died, my dad hadn't saved any money, and I guess my mom didn't have any," she recalled." The members of Pink Floyd responded with what she called "a lump sum" to support the family. 

"Trust fund doesn't sound right at all," said Watts. "They gave my mom a few thousand dollars to help get things underway. It was kind that they did that."

The money allowed Watts and her family to relocate to Australia, where she took acting lessons and modeled before earning her first big break in the 1991 film Flirting, opposite her friend, Nicole Kidman. She struggled to find her footing in Hollywood until David Lynch cast her in Mulholland Drive, which led to further success in blockbusters like The Ring and King Kong, and Oscar nominations for 21 Grams in 2003 and The Impossible in 2012. 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.