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Taking Names: Watson conquers her fear of horses

Actress keeps fear of horses under wraps in Spielberg film

It's a good thing nobody told Steven Spielberg that Emily Watson is afraid of horses when she signed on to his new movie "War Horse."

The actress said she didn't tell the director about her fear until just days after she began shooting the movie in Devon, England, last fall. Miss Watson said she had to overcome her fears because she was so excited about being in the Spielberg film, due out Dec. 25.

"I'm not very good at animals generally," Miss Watson said in a recent Associated Press interview. "I like domestic animals, but big, large ones that might hurt me — I'm a bit of a wimp."

Miss Watson plays Rose Narracott, mother of Albert, a young man who bonds with a horse that is sold to the British cavalry and sent to the trenches of World War I. She said "War Horse" is not just a story about a boy and a horse but also a "profoundly moving document" of how warfare changed. She said when British cavalry charged and the Germans responded with machine guns, "that was a turning point in history, and our horse is in the thick of that."

Miss Watson plays a different mother facing a different conflict as Janet Leach in the true story "Appropriate Adult," which premieres on the Sundance channel on Saturday. The drama is based on the complex relationship between Mrs. Leach and Fred West, one of Britain's worst serial killers, played by actor Dominic West. Mrs. Leach, a mother of five, was West's court-appointed "appropriate adult" — a British term for a person who sits in on police interviews to safeguard the rights of someone in custody deemed vulnerable.

Mrs. Leach played a key role in uncovering gruesome serial killings committed by West and his wife, Rosemary, between 1967 and 1978. Miss Watson, who met with Mrs. Leach, said she was a complex woman who ultimately was damaged by her experience.

"She does something really, really good, which is to take on the role of appropriate adult in one of the most notorious cases in British history, and she pursues it, and she sticks doggedly to it, but she oversteps boundaries left, right and center, and she becomes much too close to this criminal."

Gaga takes anti-bullying message to White House

Eccentric pop diva Lady Gaga took her anti-bullying campaign to the White House on Tuesday, where she was lauded as a source of strength for many young people who are scared at school.

Her visit follows a White House bullying conference earlier this year, called to mitigate the plight of nearly a third of U.S. schoolchildren — 13 million students — who are bullied each year, according to official figures.

President Obama was in Kansas making a major speech on the economy, but Lady Gaga was welcomed to the White House by Valerie Jarrett, one of his most senior political advisers.

"Lady Gaga has described this cause as a personal one — she has said that as a child, she was often picked on for being different," Miss Jarrett said in a White House blog post.

"I am deeply moved by the way she has used her story, and her success, to inspire young people, and shine the spotlight on important issues.

"Over the last three years, we have seen that when we work together on behalf of human rights, we can accomplish truly amazing things, yet too many young people still remain at risk."

The "Bad Romance" singer has linked up with the MacArthur Foundation and Harvard University to launch the Born This Way Foundation, which will explore ways to enhance the safety of children at school.

Mr. Obama encountered an extravagantly dressed Lady Gaga during a fundraising event in California in September, and ABC News said she brought up bullying with the president during a closed question-and-answer session.

Roy Orbison's widow dies on anniversary

Barbara Orbison, widow of rock 'n' roll pioneer Roy Orbison, died Tuesday, the 23rd anniversary of her husband's death, a family spokeswoman said. She was 60.

Mrs. Orbison died from pancreatic cancer at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center surrounded by her sons, said publicist and family spokeswoman Sarah McMullen. She had been hospitalized since May.

Since the 1980s, she had devoted her time to managing her husband's estate and keeping his legacy alive.

With her son Roy Kelton Orbison Jr., she co-produced a four-CD box set of her husband's 107 recordings. "Roy Orbison: The Soul of Rock and Roll" was released in 2008 and contains all of his hits and 12 previously unreleased tracks.

The package marked the first all-inclusive body of Roy Orbison's work, from his earliest recordings to the Traveling Wilburys' debut album, "Mystery Girl," and his last live performance. Roy Orbison died in 1988 at the age of 52, in the midst of a comeback with the Traveling Wilburys.

Actor Patrick Swayze's widow, Lisa Swayze, said her heart out goes out to the Orbison family. "Patrick and I always had a warm connection with them both. Now we have lost this wonderful lady," Mrs. Swayze said. Patrick Swayze died in September 2009 of pancreatic cancer.

Mrs. Orbison will be buried next to her husband at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, Ms. McMullen said. A "celebration of life" will be held at an undetermined future date in Nashville, Tenn.

• Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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