Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth. As Maria freezes in fear, a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her. Based on a true story, ‘The Impossible’ is the unforgettable account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time. But the true-life terror is tempered by the unexpected displays of compassion, courage and simple kindness that Maria and her family encounter during the darkest hours of their lives. Both epic and intimate, devastating and uplifting, ‘The Impossible’ is a journey to the core of the human heart.  Marking the English-language debut of director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), ‘The Impossible’ arrives in cinemas December 21st in the US and January 4th in the UK.

Portraying a true story must bring its own unique set of challenges, making it both easier and more difficult for you?

Naomi Watts: Definitely. It makes it easier and harder in different ways. Easier in that you’ve got a voice of truth that’s there to remind you how serious it was, and even if it’s not about something as serious as this, just having them give you ideas and references is really helpful. It also makes it a pressure because you feel, “Oh, they went through all of this, I really need to honour it with as much truth as what it felt like at the time.” And with what I’m doing in the film, it will never be the same as what they went through, but you want to get as close to it as you can.

What was the appeal for you on this story with such a huge scale. Working on a film like this for seven months, I can imagine it was incredibly taxing both physically and emotionally?

Naomi Watts: Yeah. What I liked about it was how the family is connected, and disconnected, and lost, and uncertain from one moment to the next – all good things to play in terms of emotions and fear. I knew it would be a big job, but I didn’t quite know it was going to be this big (laughs), it went on and on and on for seven months, from city to city, country to country, its been a big experience.

You have a great dynamic in the film with Tom Holland’s character, this mother/son relationship. What was it like working with him?

Naomi Watts: Tom Holland and I had a couple of moments where we came together and I could just tell how wonderful he was and what a beautiful instrument he had. It was just easy to work with him, that was one of the greatest highlights for me: discovering a friendship with Tom off-screen and this beautiful relationship between mother and son on-screen.

The intimacy that develops through the course of the film between Lucas and Maria, I just loved that relationship. I mean, Tom is a beyond gifted actor. He’s just a raw, open talent that is just so easy to work with. And Tom, he’s inspiring, he kind of lifts everyone’s game around him because he can do nothing but tell the truth. He was great.

Considering the emotional and physical nature of your role in ‘The Impossible,’ can you pinpoint a particular scene you found the most challenging?

Naomi Watts: I would have to say the stuff at the beginning was the hardest, physically – as I’m not Tom’s age, I’m not 25, I’m not even 30 (laughs)! I’m into my 40s now so it’s not normal for me to be thrust around, it was a hard thing to do – and repeatedly thrust round for a month. I remember being asked while filming to say this or that, and I was like, “I can’t speak! I’ve got a mouthful of water.” So that was definitely the hardest. But this journey has been such an incredible experience, highs and lows.

Working with Ewan McGregor again, how was that?

Naomi Watts: We have a really nice rapport with each other, and he’s a great guy and a fabulous talent. Ewan’s face just says everything, he’s got this beautiful warmth that comes through in his eyes and his face. I was just lucky and really happy to be working with Ewan again on ’The Impossible.’ He’s superb.

What was the experience like working with director Juan Antonio Bayona?

Naomi Watts: I love him, I love him so much. He’s a very brave man because I know he wants to push people to the edge and get everything. He’s not afraid to go there and get it. I know that he had only made one film, but from the very first week in rehearsals I knew that he wanted that challenge of taking actors to new places. He certainly got that easily with Tom, with Tom having his first experience on film – he was like an open book, an amazing open book. But Ewan and I have been doing it now for a number of years and he didn’t have one moment of holding back or intimidation, and I loved that and I wanted that. I didn’t want him to stay on the outside and think, “She can do it, let her do it.” He pulled me in, and I pulled him in too! There were times when I said, “I can’t do this, this is just too many difficult scenes,” and I remember grabbing him by the neck and looking at him saying, “Help me.” (Laughs) And just having his presence, he’s a special guy, he’s got a real zest for life. He was great company….I mean, you better like the people you’re working with if you’re working with them for seven months (laughs).