STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We are listening to several Oscar nominees as the ceremony nears. We've gone into the archives for NPR interviews from the past year. And today, we will hear two nominees who played real life people on screen.
NAOMI WATTS: Every time you play a live character, a real life character, it comes with a certain kind of pressure.
INSKEEP: That's Naomi Watts, nominated for Best Actress in the film "The Impossible." Her character, Maria, is based on a real life tsunami survivor, the mother of three young boys caught in the 2004 disaster that struck Thailand.
WATTS: Maria was always the fighter. I mean, when she spoke to me, and we spoke at great length, and she spoke in very articulate ways about how she felt connected to her center more than ever before, and decision-making became really quick and easy and you couldn't think about the future. You just have to know what to do in that exact moment.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM "THE IMPOSSIBLE")
WATTS: (As Maria) Wait. Did you hear that? There's nothing we can do. Where are you?
TOM HOLLAND: (As Lucas) Mom. Look at you. We need help.
NAOMI WATTS: (As Maria) We can't risk it, Ron. What if that boy is (unintelligible). What if they needed help? You'd want someone to help you, wouldn't you?
HOLLAND: (As Lucas) Simon and Thomas are dead.
WATTS: I had to get into her mindset to play that role and know what it was that she was feeling. And that's a big responsibility.
INSKEEP: Naomi Watts, who is nominated for Best Actress. Oscar nominee Daniel Day Lewis plays another real life character, one who was considerably larger than life, Abraham Lincoln. Day Lewis tried to reconstruct the voice of a man whose voice was never recorded.
DANIEL DAY LEWIS: The thing that commonly I listen for and if I'm lucky I hear, is the sound of a voice. And if it pleases me, if it seems right, I then set about trying to reproduce that voice, which is a whole other thing. You don't necessarily manage to find that. And I then talk to myself a great deal on the street, in the car and walking the fields at home. And I learned a few of my favorite passages of Lincoln's and I spoke his words every day and just kept trying to move towards a sense of familiarity with something that felt right.
(SOUNDBITE FROM THE FILM "LINCOLN")
LEWIS: (As Abraham Lincoln) Here's stepped out upon the world's stage now with the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood's been spilled to afford us this moment, now, now, now.
INSKEEP: Daniel Day Lewis is the actor and now, or approaching anyway, is the moment for the Oscars. You can find all of our Oscar coverage at NPR.org/Oscars. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.