TAB 200913 Naomi Watts-1599987688657
Naomi Watts in 'Penguin Bloom'. Image Credit: TIFF

Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts has worked with Hollywood icons such as David Lynch and Sean Penn, but admitted Saturday that a magpie stole her scenes in ‘Penguin Bloom,’ premiering at the Toronto film festival.

Watts plays Sam Bloom in the real-life drama about a mother who becomes paralysed in an accidental fall, but is pulled out of despair by caring for an injured baby bird named Penguin.

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“That made me nervous. How do we get a performance out of a bird and, you know, magpies are famously not super friendly,” Watts told a virtual news conference.

The movie used some animatronics and CGI, but mostly “a multitude” of live birds, confirmed director Glendyn Ivin.

“They absolutely stole the scenes every single day,” said Watts, describing how one used the bathroom on her head on the first day of filming.

Speaking from her home in Australia Sam Bloom said the real Penguin had “brought a bit of excitement and happiness into our house” after the accident “made everyone sad.”

With a pandemic and a closed Canadian border forcing Hollywood stars and media to remain home, North America’s biggest film festival has scrambled to find socially-distanced ways to present this year’s line-up, with movies premiering online and at drive-in screenings.

Through a child’s eyes

Earlier in Toronto, ‘Selma’ star David Oyelowo unveiled ‘The Water Man,’ marking his directorial debut.

“I made it for my 12-year-old self, I made it for those kids who don’t get to see themselves represented in this kind of story,” he said.

Written by Emma Needell and backed by Oprah Winfrey, the film follows the adventures of a boy, played by Lonnie Chavis, who seeks out a fabled bogeyman hoping he can cure the terminal cancer plaguing his mother, played by Rosario Dawson.

“It’s very rare to see a black family at the centre of this kind of story,” Oyelowo said.

“And I’m not just making it for black and brown people. I’m hoping that white people watch it and see themselves represented in it [too] because I do believe that seeing ourselves in different kinds of people is what engenders empathy and erodes ignorance,” he said.