TORONTO — Naomi Watts says the swirling anxieties surrounding COVID-19 helped her get into the mindset of a panic-stricken parent racing to save her child in "Lakewood."
The British-Australian actress told a Toronto International Film Festival news conference that the pandemic constraints of the North Bay, Ont., shoot played into the sense of "crisis" propelling the thriller.
"Lakewood," which was set to premiere at TIFF on Monday, stars Watts as Amy, a mother who is out for a run when she gets a call warning her that her son may be caught in an active shooter situation.
Watts said the physical demands of the sprint-heavy performance, COVID-19 concerns and separation from her children helped her get into "survival mode" for the character.
"It all played well into the anxiety, the chaos, the crisis of what Amy was going through," she said.
"The other challenge for me was being away from my kids, and fearing if I got myself hurt, if I got sick, if we got stuck, if production had to shut down — all of that.
"There were a lot of things swirling around that probably are all right there on the screen."
However, Watts said she felt safe while shooting the film's many solo scenes of her running outdoors.
Still, the pandemic brought its fair share of financial and legal complications, said producers Zack Schiller and Dylan Sellers.
It was a challenge to navigate Canada's public health protocols, said Sellers, and insurers wouldn't provide COVID-19 coverage for the production last fall.
"Not to pat ourselves on the back, but it was a big risk self-insuring," he said. "That was the biggest headache."
Director Phillip Noyce added that the pandemic posed significant disruptions during post-production.
"This was a film that was post-produced through my iMac," said Noyce. "I have never met most of the people who worked on post-production. I haven't met my editor to this day."
Screenwriter Chris Sparling noted that fears about school shootings faded into the background when the COVID-19 crisis shifted learning online.
But with schools reopening this fall, Sparling said the film's themes are sadly as relevant as ever.
"This topic was so front and centre, unfortunately. And then when the pandemic hit, suddenly, it just wasn't an issue anymore," he said.
"Now that kids are back in school, now this war is starting to creep back up again."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2021.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press