A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
If every actor keeps a bucket list of directors they hope to work with, Katherine Waterston already has many of the usual suspects covered. Paul Thomas Anderson, check (Inherent Vice). Danny Boyle, check (Steve Jobs), Ang Lee, check (Taking Woodstock). The 35-year-old actress, whose father is Oscar-nominated actor Sam Waterston, also can now boast the plum female lead in Warner Bros.’ latest J.K. Rowling franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. “I just auditioned for it, and like most things, I thought they were going to pick someone else,” says the London-born, U.S.-reared actress, who has a deal in place for three Fantastic Beasts films. “I was really surprised when they gave it to me.” Though Fantastic Beasts meant tackling an imaginary world, Waterston also is adept at real-life figures, like playing Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Steve Jobs’ eldest daughter. She didn’t have any contact with Brennan but meticulously researched her, relying mostly on books about the iconic Apple founder. “No one took it lightly that we were playing real people, but I think first and foremost we had a responsibility to the script, which is a dramatization and not a biopic,” she says.
The moment I knew I wanted to act: My life isn’t so tidy as that. That’s how things work in movies. I didn’t have some aha moment. I don’t ever remember not wanting to act.
My industry role model: There are some people who tragically didn’t live very long whom I really admired like John Cazale and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And of course I admire my father, who continued to work as he aged and changed through a very long and rich life.
My worst habit on set: Resorting to sugar on long days. It’s not good for my teeth, and it doesn’t really work in giving me energy. You do it out of desperation.
TV show I’m addicted to: I don’t watch TV. I’m not above it, but I haven’t done that yet. But I’m a sucker for Turner Classic Movies. I could watch that for days.
Actor or director I’m dying to work with: David Fincher, Luca Guadagnino, Tim Burton and Jane Campion.
My worst audition: I could probably count on one hand — one finger — the good ones I’ve had. I’m so lousy at it. I find it to be a truly counterintuitive, humiliating experience always.
My hidden talent: My arms are double-jointed
Role I would’ve loved to play: Katharine Hepburn’s Linda Seton in Holiday
My Hollywood pet peeve: Unemployment. And hairspray.