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Michelle Williams (actress)

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Michelle Williams
A head shot of Michelle Williams as she smiles looking slightly away from the camera
Williams at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
Born Michelle Ingrid Williams
(1980-09-09) September 9, 1980 (age 37)
Kalispell, Montana, U.S.
Residence Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1993–present
Works Full list
Partner(s) Heath Ledger (2004–2007)
Children 1
Parent(s) Larry R. Williams
Awards Full list

Michelle Ingrid Williams (born September 9, 1980) is an American actress. She is particularly known for her work in small-scale independent productions with dark or tragic themes, the recipient of several accolades, including a Golden Globe Award, Williams has been nominated for four Academy Awards and one Tony Award.

Born to the politician and trader Larry R. Williams, Williams was raised in Kalispell, Montana and San Diego, California. She began her career at a young age with television guest appearances and made her feature film debut in the family film Lassie (1994), at 15, she gained emancipation from her parents, and she soon achieved public recognition for her leading role in the television teen drama series Dawson's Creek (1998–2003). Williams followed it by featuring in small-scale films that were not widely seen before achieving her breakthrough with the tragic romance Brokeback Mountain (2005), in which her performance as the wife of a gay man earned Williams her first Oscar nomination.

Williams went on to gain critical acclaim for playing emotionally troubled women coping with loss or loneliness in the independent dramas Wendy and Lucy (2008), Blue Valentine (2010), and Manchester by the Sea (2016). For portraying the actress Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn (2011), she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Williams' highest-grossing releases came with Martin Scorsese's thriller Shutter Island (2010), the fantasy film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), and the musical The Greatest Showman (2017). On Broadway, Williams has starred in revivals of the musical Cabaret in 2014 and the drama Blackbird in 2016. For playing a sexually abused woman in the latter, she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

Despite significant media attention, Williams is reticent about her personal life, she was in a relationship with the actor Heath Ledger for three years, with whom she has a daughter.

Life and career[edit]

1980–1995: Early life[edit]

A bird's eye view of the city of Kalispell, Montana
The city of Kalispell, Montana, where Williams was born

Michelle Ingrid Williams was born on September 9, 1980, in Kalispell, Montana, to Carla Ingrid (née Swenson), a homemaker, and Larry R. Williams, an author and commodities trader.[1][2][3] She is of Norwegian descent,[4] her father twice ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate as a Republican Party nominee.[2] In Kalispell, Williams lived with her younger sister, Paige, and three half-siblings from her father's first marriage,[5] although she has described her family as "not terribly closely knit", she shared a close bond with her father, who encouraged her to form a reading habit and develop an independent personality.[6][7] Williams has recounted fond memories of growing up in the vast landscape of Montana,[8] the family relocated to San Diego, California, when she was nine.[5] She has said of the experience, "It was less happy probably by virtue of it being my preteen years, which are perhaps unpleasant wherever you go."[8] She mostly kept to herself and was self-sufficient.[9]

Williams became interested in acting at an early age when she saw a local production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,[10] she performed in a local production of the musical Annie, and her parents would drive her from San Diego to Los Angeles to audition for parts. Her first screen appearance was as Bridget Bowers, a young woman who seduces Mitch Buchannon's son, Hobie, in a 1993 episode of the television series Baywatch.[6][11][12] The following year, she made her film debut in the family film Lassie, about the bond between a young boy (played by Tom Guiry) and the titular dog. Williams played the love interest of Guiry's character, which led Steven Gaydos of Variety to take note of her "winning perf",[13][14] she next took on guest roles in the television sitcoms Step by Step and Home Improvement, and appeared in the brief part of Sil, a character played in adulthood by the actress Natasha Henstridge, in the 1995 science fiction film Species.[15][16][17]

By 1995, Williams had completed ninth grade at Santa Fe Christian Schools in San Diego.[18] However, she disliked going there as she did not get along with other students. To focus on her acting pursuits, she left the school and enrolled for in-home tutoring.[9][19][20] At age 15, with her parents' approval, Williams filed for emancipation from them, so she could better pursue her acting career with less interference from child labor work laws.[2][21] To comply with their guidelines, she completed her GED tests in nine months through correspondence,[10][20] she later regretted not getting a proper education.[20]

1996–2000: Dawson's Creek and transition to adult roles[edit]

Following her emancipation, Williams relocated to Los Angeles and lived by herself in Burbank.[7][22] Describing her initial experience in the city, she said, "There are some really disgusting people in the world, and I met some of them."[22] To support herself, she took assignments in low-budget films and commercials,[7] she had minor roles in the television films My Son is Innocent (1996) and Killing Mr. Griffin (1997), and featured alongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange in the drama film A Thousand Acres (1997).[23][24][25] Williams later described her early work as "embarrassing", saying that she took these roles to support herself as she "didn't have any taste [or] ideals";[7] in 1997, the 17-year old Williams entered the Robbins World Cup Championship of Futures Trading; with a return of 1000%, she became the first woman to win the title and the third-highest winner of all time (her father ranks first).[26][27][28] Also that year, unhappy with the roles she was being offered, Williams collaborated with two other actresses to write a script named Blink, about prostitutes living in a Nevada brothel, which despite being sold to a production company was never made.[29][30]

A photograph of Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in Wilmington, North Carolina
Williams filmed Dawson's Creek (1998–2003) in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she also lived during this period.

In 1998, Williams began starring in the television teen drama series Dawson's Creek, created by Kevin Williamson and co-starring James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, and Joshua Jackson. The series aired for six seasons from January 1998 to May 2003 and featured Williams as Jen Lindley, a precocious and promiscuous New York-based teenager who relocates to the fictional town of Capeside, the series was filmed in the small town of Wilmington, North Carolina, where Williams relocated for the next six years.[31] In a review of the first season for The New York Times, Caryn James called it a soap opera that was "redeemed by intelligence and sharp writing" but thought that Williams was "too earnest to suit this otherwise shrewdly tongue-in-cheek cast".[32] Ray Richmond of Variety labeled it "an addictive drama with considerable heart" and considered all four leads appealing.[33] The series was a ratings success and raised Williams' profile,[22][31] her first film release since the commencement of Dawson's Creek was the slasher film Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), starring Jamie Lee Curtis. The seventh installment in the Halloween film series, it featured Williams as one of several teenagers traumatized by a murderer.[34] It earned $55 million against its $17 million budget.[35]

Williams credited Dawson's Creek as "the best acting class", but later admitted that she had not fully invested herself in it as "my taste was in contradiction to what I was doing every single day".[15][29][36] She filmed the series for nine months each year and spent the remaining time playing against type in independent features, which she considered to be a better fit for her personality,[30][36] she has said that the financial stability of a steady job empowered her to act in such films.[37] Williams found her first such role in the comedy Dick (1999), a parody about the Watergate scandal, in which she and Kirsten Dunst played teenagers obsessed with Richard Nixon.[7][30] Praising the film's political satire, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly credited both actresses for playing their roles with "screwball verve".[38] Also that year, Williams played a small part in But I'm a Cheerleader, a satirical comedy about conversion therapy.[39]

Keen to play challenging roles in adult-oriented projects, Williams spent the summer of 1999 starring in an Off-Broadway play named Killer Joe.[40][41] Penned by Tracy Letts, it is a black comedy about a dysfunctional family who kills their matriarch for insurance money; Williams was cast as the family's youngest daughter. The production featured gruesome violence and required Williams to perform a nude scene,[6] her socially conservative parents were displeased with it, but Williams said that she found it "cathartic and freeing".[6][30][42] Her next role was in the HBO television film If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000), a drama about three lesbian couples in different time periods. Williams agreed to the part after ensuring that a sex scene between Chloë Sevigny and her was pertinent to the story and was not meant to titillate;[42] in a mixed review of the film, Ken Tucker criticized Williams for overplaying her character's eagerness.[43] When asked about playing a series of sexual roles, Williams said, "I don't think of any of them as sexy, hot girls, they were just defined at an early age by the fact that others saw them that way."[22] She subsequently made an effort to play roles that were not sexualized.[6]

2001–2005: Independent films and Brokeback Mountain[edit]

The British film Me Without You (2001) about an obsessive female friendship featured Williams opposite Anna Friel, she played Holly, an insecure bibliophile, a part that Williams believed came closest to her personality.[22] The writer-director Sandra Goldbacher was initially reluctant to cast an American in a British part but was impressed by Williams' self-depreciating humor and a "European stillness" that she found in her.[22] Roger Ebert praised Williams' British accent and found her to be "cuddly and smart both at once".[44] Williams returned to stage the following year in a production of Mike Leigh's farce Smelling a Rat,[45] her part, that of a scatterbrained teenager exploring her sexuality, led Karl Levett of Backstage to credit her for being "a first-class creative comedienne".[46] Also in 2002, Williams played a supporting role in the Christina Ricci-starring Prozac Nation, a drama about depression based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir.[47]

Dawson's Creek completed its run in 2003, and Williams was pleased with how it had ended. She relocated to New York City soon after,[48] she had supporting parts in two art-house films that year—the drama The United States of Leland and the comedy-drama The Station Agent. In the former, starring Ryan Gosling, she played the grieving sister of a murdered boy; it was described by The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey as "neither an insightful nor well-made film".[49] The Station Agent, about a lonely dwarf (played by Peter Dinklage), featured Williams as a librarian who develops an attraction towards him. Critically acclaimed, the film's cast was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast.[50][51] On stage, Williams played Varya in a 2004 production of Anton Chekhov's drama The Cherry Orchard, alongside Linda Emond and Jessica Chastain, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.[52] The theatre critic Ben Brantley wrote that "she cannily plays her natural vibrancy against the anxiety that has worn the young Varya into a permanent high-strung sullenness".[53]

A headshot of Heath Ledger as he looks away from the camera
Williams and Heath Ledger (pictured) began dating in 2004 while filming Brokeback Mountain, and she gave birth to their daughter the next year.[19]

The German filmmaker Wim Wenders wrote the film Land of Plenty (2004), which investigates anxiety and disillusionment in a post-9/11 America, with Williams in mind.[54] Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times praised Wenders' thoughtful examination of the subject and took note of Williams' screen appeal.[55] She received a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead for the film.[56] Williams next appeared in Imaginary Heroes, a drama about a family coping with their son's suicide, and played an impressionable young woman fixated on mental health in the period film A Hole in One. Neither film was well received.[57][58] Williams returned to the comedic genre with The Baxter, in which she played a geeky secretary, the film received negative reviews; Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote, "Only when Williams is around does the movie seem human, true, and funny. Even in her slapstick there's pain."[59][60] As with her other films during this period, it only received a limited release and was not widely seen.[61][62]

Williams gained wider recognition later in 2005 when she appeared in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, about the tragic romance between two men, Ennis and Jack (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively). Impressed with her performance in The Station Agent, the casting director Avy Kaufman recommended Williams to Lee, he found a vulnerability in her and cast her as Alma, the wife of Ennis, who discovers her husband's homosexuality and infidelity.[63] Williams was emotionally affected by the story, and in spite of her limited screen time, was drawn to playing a woman constricted by social mores of the time.[19] Labeling Williams as the standout among the cast, Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine credited her for "fascinatingly spiking her unspoken resentment for her sham of a marriage with a hint of compassion for Ennis's secret suffering".[64] Brokeback Mountain proved to be Williams' most widely seen film to that point, earning $178 million against its $14 million budget.[65] It won three Academy Awards and Williams gained a Best Supporting Actress nomination.[66] Williams began dating Ledger while working on the film,[9] the couple cohabited in Brooklyn, New York, and in October 2005, she gave birth to their daughter, Matilda.[63]

2006–2010: Work with auteurs[edit]

Williams had two film releases in 2006, she first featured opposite Paul Giamatti in the drama The Hawk Is Dying.[7] Five months after giving birth to her daughter, she returned to work on Ethan Hawke's directorial venture The Hottest State, based on his own novel. A review in Variety mentioned that she was underused in it.[67] Following the awards season success of Brokeback Mountain, Williams was unsure of what to do next, after six months of indecision, she agreed to a small part in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There (2007), a musical inspired by the life of Bob Dylan.[68] She was then attracted to the part of an enigmatic seductress named S in the 2008 crime thriller Deception,[7] the film, which co-starred Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor, was considered by critics to be middling and predictable.[69] In her next release, Incendiary, based on Chris Cleave's novel of the same name, Williams reteamed with McGregor to play a woman whose family is killed in a terrorist attack. In his review for The Independent, Robert Hanks called it "sloppy" and said that Williams deserved better.[70]

An upper body shot of a smiling Michelle Williams
Williams at the Berlin International Film Festival for the premiere of Shutter Island in 2010

Williams' two other releases of 2008 were better received, the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was impressed with her comic timing in Dick and thus cast her in his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, an ensemble experimental drama headlined by Philip Seymour Hoffman.[54] It was a box office bomb and polarized critics, although Roger Ebert named it the best film of the decade.[71][72][73] Two days after finishing work on Synecdoche, New York, Williams began filming Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy, which centers on Wendy, a poor and lonesome young woman who travels with her dog, Lucy, in hopes of finding employment.[74] With a shoestring budget of $300,000, the film was shot on location in Portland, Oregon, with a largely volunteering crew.[74] Williams had just separated from Ledger and was relieved for the anonymity the project provided,[54][75] she was pleased with Reichardt's minimalistic approach and identified with her character's self-sufficiency and fortitude.[74][76] Sam Adams of Los Angeles Times found Williams' performance to be "remarkable not only for its depth but for its stillness" and Mick LaSalle commended her for effectively conveying a "lived-in sense of always having been close to the economic brink".[77][78]

While filming in Sweden for her next project, Mammoth (2009), news broke that Ledger had died from an accidental intoxication from prescription drugs.[31][54] Although Williams continued filming, she later said, "It was horrible. I don't remember most of it."[6] In her first public statement, a week after Ledger's death, Williams expressed her heartbreak and described Ledger's spirit as surviving in their daughter.[79] Later that month she attended his memorial and funeral services.[80]

Mammoth was directed by the Swedish director Lukas Moodysson and featured her and Gael García Bernal as a couple dealing with issues stemming from globalization. Her role was that of an established surgeon, a part she deemed herself too young to logically play.[68] Also in 2009, Williams co-starred with Natalie Portman in a faux perfume commercial called Greed directed by Roman Polanski,[81] for her next project, Martin Scorsese cast her opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the psychological thriller Shutter Island. Based on Dennis Lehane's novel, it featured her as a depressed housewife who drowns her own children, the high-profile production marked a departure for her, and she found it difficult to adjust to the slower pace of filming.[82] In preparation, she read case studies on infanticide,[54] after finishing work on the film in 2008, Williams admitted that playing a series of troubled women coupled with her own personal difficulties had taken an emotional toll on her. She took a year off work to focus on her daughter.[54][82] Shutter Island released in 2010 and was a commercial success, accumulating over $294 million in box office receipts.[83]

Williams was initially reluctant to accept Derek Cianfrance's offer to star in the romantic drama Blue Valentine, as filming in California would take her away from her daughter for too long. Keen to have her in the film, Cianfrance decided to film it near Brooklyn, where Williams lived.[84] Co-starring Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine is about the tribulations faced by a disillusioned married couple, before production began, Cianfrance had Williams and Gosling live together for a month on a stipend that matched their character's income. This exercise led to conflicts between them, which proved conducive for filming their character's deteriorating marriage,[85] on set, she and Gosling practiced method acting by largely avoiding the script and improvising several scenes.[41] The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim.[86] A. O. Scott found Williams to be "heartbreakingly precise in every scene" and praised the couple for being "exemplars of New Method sincerity, able to be fully and achingly present every moment on screen together".[87] Williams received Best Actress nominations at the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award ceremonies.[88][89]

In her final film release of 2010, Williams reunited with Reichardt for the western Meek's Cutoff. Set in 1854, it is based on an ill-fated historical incident on the Oregon Trail, in which the frontier guide Stephen Meek led a wagon train through a desert. Williams starred as one of the passengers on the wagon, a feisty young mother, who is suspicious of Meek; in preparation, she took lessons on firing a gun and learned to knit.[90][91] Filming in extreme temperatures in the desert proved arduous for Williams, although she enjoyed the challenge.[91] Writing for The Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz praised the subtlety in both the film and Williams' performance.[92]

2011–2016: My Week with Marilyn and Broadway[edit]

A photograph of Dougray Scott and Michelle Williams filming in character for My Week with Marilyn
Williams filming the part of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn (2011). Pictured with co-star Dougray Scott.

In 2011, Williams played the actress Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, a drama depicting the troubled production of the 1957 comedy The Prince and the Showgirl, based on accounts by Colin Clark, who worked on the film. Initially skeptical to play Monroe, as she had little in common with her looks or personality, Williams spent six months researching her by reading biographies, diaries and notes, and studying her posture, gait, and mannerisms,[93][94] she also gained weight for the part, bleached her hair blond, and on days of filming, spent over three hours applying make-up.[95] Williams sang several songs for the film's soundtrack and recreated a performance of Monroe singing and dancing to "Heat Wave".[96][97] Roger Ebert considered Williams' performance to be key to the film's success and credited her for successfully evoking multiple aspects of Monroe's personality.[98] Peter Travers opined that despite not physically resembling Monroe, she had "with fierce artistry and feeling [illuminated] Monroe's insights and insecurities about herself at the height of her fame".[99] Williams won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and received her second consecutive Oscar nomination for it.[100]

In Sarah Polley's romance Take This Waltz (2011), co-starring Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby, Williams played a married writer attracted to her neighbor. Though she considered it to be a light-hearted film, Jenny McCartney of The Daily Telegraph found a darker undertone to it and favorably compared its theme to that of Blue Valentine.[101][102] To play a part that would appeal to her daughter, Williams starred as Glinda the Good Witch in Sam Raimi's fantasy picture Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Based on the Oz children's books, it served as a prequel to the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz.[5] It marked her first appearance in a film involving special effects, but Williams was not intimidated by the challenge, crediting Raimi for making her comfortable with the process,[103] the film earned over $490 million worldwide to emerge as her highest-grossing release.[104] Suite Française, a period drama that Williams filmed in 2013 was released in a few territories in 2015 but was not theatrically released in America.[105] She later regretted working on the project.[106] Displeased with the film roles she was being offered, Williams spent the next few years working on stage.[107]

Keen to work in a musical, Williams took on the role of Sally Bowles in a 2014 revival of Cabaret, which was staged at Studio 54 and marked her Broadway debut.[108] Jointly directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, it tells the story of a free-spirited cabaret performer in 1930s Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party. Before production began, she spent four months privately rehearsing with music and dance coaches, she read the works of Christopher Isherwood, whose novel Goodbye to Berlin inspired the musical, and visited Berlin to research Isherwood's life and inspirations.[109] Critical consensus on her performance was mixed;[110] Jesse Green of New York magazine wrote that "she acts the hell out of the role" but Newsday's Linda Winer found her "timid" and "bland",[111][112] the rigorousness of the assignment led Williams to consider Cabaret to be the "hardest work of my life".[113]

An upper body shot of Michelle Williams as she looks away from the camera
Williams at the premiere of Manchester by the Sea in 2016

Challenged by her work in Cabaret, Williams was eager to return to the stage,[114][115] she found the part in a 2016 revival of the David Harrower play Blackbird. Set entirely in the lunchroom of an office, it focuses on a young woman, Una (Williams), who confronts a much-older man (played Jeff Daniels) for having sexual relations with her when she was 12 years old. Williams, who had not seen previous stagings of the play, was drawn to the ambiguity of her character and found herself unable to distance herself from it after each performance.[116] Hilton Als of The New Yorker found Williams' "daring and nonjudgmental embodiment of her not easily assimilable character" to be the production's highlight.[117] She received a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play nomination for Blackbird.[118]

Williams returned to film in 2016 with supporting roles in two small-scale dramas—Certain Women and Manchester by the Sea,[113] the former marked her third collaboration with Kelly Reichardt and told three interconnected narratives based on the short stories of Maile Meloy. As with their previous collaborations, the film featured minimal dialogues and required Williams to act through silences.[119] Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea starred Casey Affleck as a depressed man who separates from his wife (Williams) following the death of their children. Williams agreed to the project to work with Lonergan, whose work she admired, and in preparation, she visited Manchester to interview local mothers about their lives,[113] she also worked with a dialect coach to adopt a Massachusetts accent.[120] Despite the film's bleakness, Williams identified with her character's desire to reclaim her life in the face of tragedy.[119] Justin Chang wrote in his review that despite her brief role, Williams "has one astonishing scene that rises from the movie like a small aria of heartbreak".[121] She received her fourth Academy Award nomination for it, her second in the Best Supporting Actress category.[122]

2017–present: Mainstream films[edit]

Williams began 2017 with a cameo in Todd Hayne's drama Wonderstruck,[123] following which she appeared in the musical film The Greatest Showman. Inspired by P. T. Barnum's creation of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, the film featured Williams as Charity, the wife of Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman). She compared her character's disposition to that of Grace Kelly and considered it to be a rare "joyful part" for her,[115] she sang two songs for the film's soundtrack—"A Million Dreams" and "Tightrope".[124] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly found the film to be lavish yet shallow and felt that Williams had been underutilized in it,[125] the film emerged as one of her most successful, earning over $430 million against an $84 million budget.[126]

Williams next took on her first leading film role since 2013 in Ridley Scott's crime thriller All the Money in the World,[127] she starred as Gail Harris, whose son, John Paul Getty III, is abducted for ransom. She considered it to be a major opportunity for her as she had not headlined a big-budget film before.[128] Production was marred with difficulties when Kevin Spacey, who played J. Paul Getty, was accused of sexual misconduct a month before the film's release.[129] He was replaced with Christopher Plummer, and Williams reshot her scenes days before the release deadline,[130] it was later reported that her co-star Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million to Williams' $1,000 for the reshoots, sparking a debate on gender pay gap in the industry.[131] The film was positively reviewed;[132] David Edelstein of New York bemoaned that the controversy had taken attention away from Williams' work, writing that "through the tension in her body and intensity of her voice, Williams conveys [...] the terror of losing a son".[133] She received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for it.[134]

In 2018, Williams played a powerful executive in the Amy Schumer-starring comedy I Feel Pretty, which satirizes body image issues among women. The empowered and confident character marked a departure from her previous roles, and Peter Debruge of Variety considered it to be "the funniest performance of her career",[135][136] it had moderate box office returns.[137] Williams will next star as Ann Weying in the superhero film Venom, co-starring Tom Hardy as the titular antihero,[138] after which she will portray the singer Janis Joplin in a biopic directed by Sean Durkin.[115] She has also committed to star alongside Julianne Moore in a remake of Susanne Bier's Danish film After the Wedding, and to Kimberly Peirce's This is Jane, a historical drama about the Jane Collective service.[139][140]

Media image and acting style[edit]

Describing Williams' off-screen persona in 2016, Debbie McQuoid of Stylist found her to be "kind and thoughtful" and wrote that she is "predictably petite but her poise and posture make her seem larger than life",[107] the journalist Andrew Anthony has described her as unpretentious, low-key, and unassuming.[82] Charles McGrath of The New York Times found Williams to be unlike a movie star and called her "shy, earnest, thoughtful, and [...] a little wary of publicity".[108] Following the death of Heath Ledger, Williams became the subject of intense media scrutiny and was frequently stalked by paparazzi,[82][141] she disliked the attention, saying that it interfered with her work and made her self-conscious.[8][142] Even though she refuses to publicly discuss her relationships, she has been forthright in talking about her grief due to Ledger's death, saying that it had left a permanent hole in her and her daughter's life,[2][143] she has since spoken about how she tries to balance her desire to be private and to use her celebrity to speak out against issues such as sexism, gender pay gap, and sexual abuse.[144]

A black-and-white picture of Michelle Williams posing for the camera
Williams at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival

Williams prefers to work in small-scale independent films over big-budget productions, finding them to be "a very natural expression of my interest".[108][145] Elaine Lipworth of The Daily Telegraph has identified a theme of "dark, often tragic characters" in her career, while Katie O'Malley of Elle believes that she specializes in "playing strong, independent and forthright female characters".[5][146] When asked about her choice of roles, Williams has said that she is drawn towards "people’s failings, blind spots, inconsistencies",[5] she agrees to a project on instinct, calling it an "un-thought out process".[146] Describing her acting process in 2008, she said:

Acting sometimes reminds me of therapy in that the more you talk about a traumatic or profound event, the more it loses its emotional tension. [The trick is] to live in so much mystery, to rely on a feeling, an instinct, on faith, really, that everything I need is already inside me, and best I just don’t block the exit.[54]

Erica Wagner of Harper's Bazaar has praised Williams for combining "startlingly emotional performance with a sense of groundedness" and the critic David Thomson writes that she "can play anyone, without undue glamour or starriness".[144][147] Adam Green of Vogue finds Williams' ability to reveal "the inner lives of her characters in unguarded moments" to be her trademark, and credits her for not "trading on her sex appeal" despite her willingness to perform nude scenes.[93] Kenneth Lonergan, who directed her in Manchester by the Sea, has said that her versatility allows her to be "transformed, in her whole person" by the role she plays.[148] Describing her career in 2016, Boris Kachka of Elle termed it a metamorphosis from "celebrated indie ingenue to muscular, chameleonic movie star".[143]

Williams has featured as the brand ambassador for the fashion label Band of Outsiders and the luxury brand Louis Vuitton,[149][150] she has appeared in several advertisement campaigns for the latter company, and in 2015, she starred alongside Alicia Vikander in their short film named The Spirit of Travel.[151]

Acting credits and awards[edit]

Michelle Williams is seen smiling and waving away from the camera
Williams at the 83rd Academy Awards

According to the review-aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and the box office site Box Office Mojo, Williams' highest-grossing and most acclaimed films include The Station Agent (2003), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Wendy and Lucy (2008), Blue Valentine (2010), Shutter Island (2010), Meek's Cutoff (2010), My Week with Marilyn (2011), Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), Manchester by the Sea (2016), Certain Women (2016), and The Greatest Showman (2017).[62][152] Among her stage roles, she has appeared on Broadway in revivals of Cabaret in 2014 and Blackbird in 2016.[115]

Williams has been nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Manchester by the Sea (2016); and Best Actress for Blue Valentine (2010) and My Week with Marilyn (2011).[153] She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for My Week with Marilyn (2011) and has been nominated five more times: Best Actress in a Drama for Blue Valentine (2010) and All the Money in the World (2017); and Best Supporting Actress, for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Manchester by the Sea (2016).[154] Williams has also received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Blackbird.[118]

Discography[edit]

Soundtrack Year Song Label Ref.
My Week with Marilyn 2011 "When Love Goes Wrong, Nothin' Goes Right / Heat Wave" Sony Music [155]
"It's a Wrap, I Found a Dream"
"That Old Black Magic"
The Greatest Showman 2017 "A Million Dreams" Atlantic Records [124]
"Tightrope"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Michelle Williams". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved January 17, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bennetts, Leslie (February 2011). "Belle Michelle". Marie Claire: 124–128. ASIN B004JEJYLE. 
  3. ^ Armstrong, Alice Catt; Vitale, Sarah Alice (1993). Who's who in California. Who's Who Historical Society. p. 349. Archived from the original on June 22, 2018. 
  4. ^ Vida, Vendela (May 2011). "Michelle Williams". Interview. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
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External links[edit]