When Michelle Williams accepted the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy on Sunday, the "My Week With Marilyn" star touched an international audience with her dedication of the award to her daughter, Matilda. But to know her history, it is obvious that it was more than just a cute acceptance speech; the moment marked a new era in her career, both as an actress and as a reluctant celebrity.
Williams will perhaps always be known as a tragic figure following the 2008 death of Heath Ledger, her one-time fiance and father to her child. When Ledger passed, the media swarmed on Williams, and as she tells GQ in their new cover story, it became a nightmare to deal with.
"It was making me crazy. I felt like I was going crazy. It was too much -- trying to deal with what had happened and trying to deal with what was at our doorstep," she tells the magazine. "I just felt trapped. And it's not just me -- there's somebody else who I'm trying to protect, and I can't. I can't make it stop, I can't make it go away. Trying to find ways to explain it or shield her from it. It's like you're trying to go about your life, and make dinner...but the roof is off of your house, and the walls are falling down."
That Williams would thank her daughter -- she called six-year-old Matilda's "bravery and exuberance is the example that I take with me in my work and in my life" -- is a major development, though one that, presumably, did not come without a tinge of sadness. The thought of Ledger still brings her to tears -- imagining herself and Ledger reunited is "one of my favorite things to imagine," she says -- but it has not hindered her career. Instead, it has helped shape it in different ways.
Soon after his passing, Williams went to work on Martin Scorsese's thriller "Shutter Island," in which she co-starred with Leonardo Di Caprio. After about a year of Williams' avoiding work, director Derek Ciafrance came calling, asking her to fulfill her commitment to star in "Blue Valentine." She said no at first -- she couldn't stand the thought of moving to California for the shoot -- but finally agreed when Ciafrance offered to shoot the picture on the east coast, never more than an hour from her Brooklyn home.
Now, she stars in "Marilyn," taking on the iconic actress and sex symbol. As the Hollywood Foreign Press Association can attest, she nailed with remarkable accuracy Monroe's sex appeal -- along with her mental anguish and manic personality -- and that in itself marks a development in her career. Following a role as a risque teenager in "Dawson's Creek" and a small stage play in New York in which she had to strip on a nightly basis, Williams long held a pledge to herself.
"I wouldn't say that that would be one of my first qualities as a human being -- being sexy," she says. "And I think because my character on 'Dawson's Creek' was sexy...sexualized...sexual...I saw all the negative attention and connotations that can come along with that. And that those things can keep people from seeing you clearly... When you play sexy you're kind of playing just for men. That is something you have to police and turn it on its head."
Her next role is decidedly clothed and unsexy; she plays Glinda the Good Witch in "Oz: The Great and Powerful," Disney's prequel to "The Wizard of Oz." That film, she's said time and time again, is for her daughter; after starring in such mature films as "Brokeback Mountain," "Blue Valentine" and "Synecdoche, New York," she'd like Matilda to be able to see her mom star in a film.
After all, Matilda already inspires all of her mother's other films.
For more, click over to GQ.
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