At 28, Naomi Watts feels lost in Hollywood

When Naomi Watts was 28 years old, she started her third career. In her early teens, she tried her hand at modeling, but after a few failed auditions, she turned to another path within the industry: working as a fashion editor at the now-defunct Australian magazine Follow Me . Then, as a favor to a friend, she agreed to take a weekend-long acting course, after which she decided to give up fashion altogether. "Actors, students and teachers all said, 'Look, this is your calling, this is who you are,'" Watts tells Bustle. "Literally, I quit my job on Monday morning."

At first, Watts seemed to be on the fast track to success. "Two weeks later, I got my first job in this movie called Flirting. Nicole Kidman, Noah Taylor and Thandive Newton were in it," the 54-year-old the lady said. "So I met a lot of great people. I actually already knew Nicole, but we all became really good friends through it." So much so that Kidman inspired Watts to move to the United States and try to break into Hollywood — —There, Watts' luck seemed to stall for a moment. “I felt like a gun for hire,” she says of the odd jobs in her early work. "I was in America, far away from where I grew up. I just felt displaced."

Now, thirty years into her career, the two-time Oscar nominee, 28, has a renewed sense of elegance. “I heard a saying the other day that the average person goes through three career changes, and that really makes sense,” says the actor and Stripes founder. "You're still young in your twenties and there's no need to have it all figured out. You don't have to worry about, 'Oh, I've invested so much time into this, there's no way I'm going to change my career now.' "You absolutely can."

Below, Watts reflects on jealousy, stretch marks and a life-changing night at the Cannes Film Festival.

Take me back to 1996, when you were 28 years old.

I just panicked. I always thought, "Oh, I'm going to get married and start a family when I'm 25," because my mom had kids when she was 19 and 20... [I] was thinking, "I'm missing my mark." , the plan did not succeed."

How do you feel about your career?

I moved to the United States in my early twenties and [still] had no professional success, I don't want to say success. But even with the assurances – nothing feels solid. So when I compare myself to other people, I'm a little lost. I also have a best friend in the US who has a kid, is married and doing well, so I definitely feel like I'm not in the best state of mind mentally.

What drives you to keep going?

Looking back, I'm really like, "Wow, I can't believe I'm still going through this." I must have some incredible resilience. And the idea that I don’t know what else to do. Another skill I didn’t spend a lot of time developing.

You've said that your close friend Nicole Kidman was really your rock during your early years in Hollywood. How do you two support each other?

She and others gave me a lot of encouragement. Comparing yourself to others is the easiest trap to fall into in life. It takes emotional growth and trusting yourself to get out of trouble. I don't know if anyone can get away with that, it's almost like a rite of passage. But the good news is that when you hit your 30s, this slows down and you start living for yourself and making better decisions. Get to know yourself better and pay more attention to your intuition rather than thinking, "Oh, what would she do? Or what would they think?"

Is there any way you can pull yourself out of the rabbit hole?

It's so devastating yet so human. Today in yoga class, I [stopped] caring about other people, I just wanted to get the best experience out of it. Whereas before, I always looked at the other people in the class. I would never take off my T-shirt and do yoga in a bra top because I don't have a six-pack. I've always had a bit of a belly.

Well, guess what? I don’t have a six pack anymore either. In fact, I had so many stretch marks that my belly almost looked like a paper bag. But if I'm too hot, I'll take my top off because it makes me feel better. I don’t care that I no longer have a six-pack.

Naomi Watts attends the premiere of "Mulholland Drive" at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival . Evan Agostini/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

What was your daily life like in Hollywood at 28 years old?

I auditioned a lot. I spent a lot of time in the car - I rented a Honda Accord - driving to auditions, because you didn't do selfie tapes back then. I would find a job where I could pay off my bills, my debt, that kind of thing. I kept thinking "Should I go home?" America was a hard place to crack for me.

Is there anything outside of work that brings you comfort?

I managed to make a great group of friends. I got together with a lot of Australian expats, mostly actors who were doing the same thing here. I need to find some familiarity, talking about home, cooking the food we love, having barbecues in people's gardens or apartments. Lots of wine and delicious food.

You're at a very different stage in your career now than you were in your 20s. How do you think the 28-year-old you would feel about your life now?

I mean, she would be shocked. This is far beyond what I thought was a reasonable dream. Just a few years later, things changed. I first met David Lynch when I was 29 years old. "Mulholland Drive" will become a TV show on ABC. We shot the pilot, which was two hours long. But here's the bad news, they're not going to turn it into a series, probably when I'm about 30 years old. So I went back to being frustrated and feeling frustrated and thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm so close." It got to a big moment, but it got put on the back burner. "A year later, maybe 31, I got a call saying, 'David Lynch is now thinking about making this into a movie, and he'd like to meet with you and share new ideas about the material.' "

Was there a moment when you really felt like you had succeeded?

At the age of 32, I walked on the red carpet on the steps of the Grand Palais in Cannes (for the premiere of Mulholland Drive ). This is a life-changing moment. The standing ovation for the movie felt like it lasted forever, and then the next day, every agent was calling me. Then two of the most amazing reviews published in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety changed my life.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity .