Photographer Cameron Bloom has captured some special moments in his family's life. In fact several of them are featured in the book, "Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family." That's because Penguin, who became a member of the Bloom family in 2014, saved his wife's life.
Cameron and his wife, Sam, were vacationing in Thailand in 2013 when Sam fell off of a roof and nearly died. She was left broken both in body and spirit. Partially paralyzed, Sam spent months in a near state of depression, dwelling on everything she couldn't do. In a candid Time piece, she revealed that that included being a wife and a mother. But when one of her sons brought home an injured magpie and she started to care for the bird, she began to take better care of herself as well. Her story of recovery is told in the feature film "Penguin Bloom" on Netflix.
The Blooms have added a new photo to their collection: Sam's first meeting with actress Naomi Watts, who plays her in the film. In an interview with Townhall on Monday, Watts says she felt an instant connection to Sam the day they met in Sydney.
"We knew it was going to work instantly we just felt a warmth and generosity and good vibes right away," Watts noted. "She trusted me, I trusted her. It was kind of a great match in that very first moment."
Watts recalled that they had "a really lovely breakfast," and Cam had the idea to go outside and take a few pictures. She recently shared the throwback photo on Instagram.
"The photo tells the story," Watts told Townhall. "We hit it off instantly. We’re both quite shy people and obviously wanted to treat this story with such respect and I went into it feeling excited to be empowered with this wonderful honor. Her story is just so full of courage and hope and one that as an actor you just want to wrap your hands around at any time."
Watts, a two-time Academy Award nominee, has played some complex characters in film and on television. But with Sam she had an added challenge: Learning to not use her body. She says that Sam was very generous with her time and helped the actress on set with her physicality, including the many scenes in which Sam has to allow herself to be lifted by Cam, played in the film by "The Walking Dead" actor Andrew Lincoln.
Sam also allowed Watts to read her journal entries from the early days of her recovery. She likely used those candid notes to capture the emotions she needed to film one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the film. While she's lying in bed, one of Sam's sons gets sick and cries out for help. Instead of calling for his mom, he yells out for his dad. Sam can only remain in bed, cry and say, "He used to call out for me." I asked Watts how it felt - not as an actress, but as a mother, to immerse herself in that scene.
"It’s just a heartbreaking moment," Watts said. "I totally could see myself and being in that situation and being torn apart..not just the realization that they’re not calling out to you, but it's also that you can’t do anything. The powerlessness…the guilt, and the shame and the heartbreak of that. Sam and I talked about it a lot. It was definitely one of those scenes you feel like helps so much of the story in terms of what she was going through."
And then Penguin enters the scene. The magpie brings light and humor to the film, as he did for the Blooms in real life. I asked Watts what it was like working with her furry co-stars. She's used to working with CGI creatures, a la her memorable, expressive turn in "King Kong," but she says she was "nervous" to work with the animals. As it turns out, they took direction rather well.
"Magpies are incredibly smart animals so they’re very trainable," she explained. "Pretty much everything that was required of them was executed. It did take a lot of patience."
Based on their social media interaction, it seems that Sam believes that Watts was the perfect actress to bring her story to the silver screen. Commenting on that lovely Instagram photo, Sam commented on how much she appreciated Watts's performance.
"The film wouldn't be resonating with millions of people around the world without your passion and commitment in telling my story," Blooms writes. "The last 8 years has been an emotional roller coaster and you totally nailed!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Love you too!!"
"Penguin Bloom" is streaming on Netflix now.