Michelle Williams was relatively unknown at the time, though a respected actress, when actor Heath Ledger ended his life in January 2008. Suddenly, she was caught up in the hysteria surrounding his death, being the mother of his only child.
They weren’t married but were sharing custody of Matilda, then a toddler. Since the tragedy, Williams has refused to talk about Ledger, maintaining a respectful silence. But you’d expect no less of her. Williams has always been the most private and least forthcoming all of Hollywood stars.
Recently, the 37-year-old actress was again thrust into the limelight when it was revealed she was paid 1% of the million dollars her co-star Mark Wahlberg received for the re-shoots of All The Money In The World, necessitated by Kevin Spacey having to be replaced by Christopher Plummer.
Williams received a Golden Globe nomination for her work, but Wahlberg didn’t, although soon after the salary controversy he donated his fee to the #MeToo Movement that has exposed sexual harassment in Hollywood.
Ledger has been gone a decade now, yet Williams is resolutely single, although she has had relationships with actor Jason Segal and director Spike Jonze. Don’t expect her to talk about them either.
How did you feel about re-shooting Kevin Spacey’s scenes?
When they asked me, I said I would do it, and if you need the salary that you paid me, if you need it back, I will give it to you, because it was the right thing to do.
But honestly, it was my daughter who said, “You can’t let the bad guy win. You have to go out there. Everybody worked way too hard on this and you can’t give up because of one bad guy.”
What are your thoughts about the #MeToo movement?
It’s interesting to me that change seems to only come out of extreme suffering. These last couple of months for me and for so many women that I know have been incredibly provocative, traumatic, upsetting, because we all have our stories to tell.
But what I am left with, after the tears have dried, is that we are on the verge of something. It’s getting so loud and it’s become such a powerful movement that I actually believe that I am going to hand my daughter a far safer world.
I believe it, and I am going to fight for it and for everyone, because it’s time. So, as upsetting as it has been, I feel more optimistic than I ever have been.
Having played Glinda in Oz, do you think one day you’ll find your Prince Charming?
Absolutely not, for the simple reason they don’t exist, not even at Disneyland. I took my daughter there and we saw all the princesses and had lunch with them and met them and stuff. And then Matilda said, “OK now, I’d like to go meet the princes.”
And the woman looked at me and she said, “Nobody’s ever asked that question before. There are no princes here.” And I was like, “That’s exactly right, honey. Better you learn it now. There are no princes.”
Are you happier being on your own? And does success serve as a substitute?
Look, I don’t go to bed alone. There might be somebody there. But I’m still alone, just as I came into this world and just like I’ll leave this world.
And so, things, like success, they are more passing than a lasting part of you. Recognition makes you feel momentarily relieved or proud or good or something. But it’s not me. It’s something that happens in my life, but it’s not me.
What would a man have to be to win you?
Be good or great? I don’t know. I suppose the most compelling quality is when somebody is really living in their own skin. When somebody is truly themselves and fully expressed, that’s incredibly appealing to me.
Looking back on your career, where do you think you are now?
I found this picture of me at, I don’t know, 15 or 14 or something. I was at a school dance where I was so awkward and uncomfortable. I popped (the picture) into my wallet because more than anything I’m really proud of having come a long way.
I hold that person so close, because though I’ve grown up, I’m still the same person. I still have the same values and dreams. There is no denying I’ve come a long way, it wasn’t easy… and it took a long time. I started acting when I was 12 and I was nothing special.
I wish that I could travel back in time and say to that girl, “It’s going to be OK. One day, you’re going to do work that you’ll be proud of, and you’ll work with people you admire.” So, more than anything, I feel kind of pleased about that.
After a hard day of shooting, how do you unwind?
I like to stick my head out of the car window on the drive back from the set. I like to hang my head out like a dog and make the wind rush past my face – because it feels good. I like a little bit of space between things. To come here (to this press conference) this morning, it was a four-hour train ride from Boston to New York, and that was a nice way to leave one world and enter another.
Even when I’m doing a play on Broadway, it’s a 40-minute trip from where I live into the city, and those 40 minutes are an invaluable separation and preparation time for me, and the same with the drive home. I use that time as a portal so that I can come back to the thing that’s most important to me in my life, which is of course my family.
Would you like your daughter to pursue a career in acting?
What I want more than anything for my daughter is to be herself. And if she’s interested in acting, then, I’ll do everything that I can to support her, but I would hope that she waits until she’s an adult to make that decision.