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Michelle Williams talks being nervous of becoming Marilyn Monroe

My Week with Marilyn
23 November 2011

Michelle Williams’ performances have established her as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors. She was last seen in Derek Cianfrance’s BLUE VALENTINE, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as well as Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critics Association nominations and her fourth Independent Spirit Award nomination. Her performance in Ang Lee’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, released in 2005, earned her a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award as well as Independent Spirit Award, SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. Williams was nominated for a 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for her performance in Wim Wenders’ LAND OF PLENTY and for the acclaimed independent film WENDY AND LUCY.

Her other films include THE STATION AGENT, MEEK’S CUTTOFF, INCENDIARY Martin Scorcese’s SHUTTER ISLAND, Charlie Kaufman’s SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK, Todd Haynes’ I’M NOT THERE, Ethan Hawke’s THE HOTTEST STATE, Sandra Goldbacher’s ME WITHOUT YOU, and Andrew Fleming’s DICK.

On television, Williams starred opposite Chloë Sevigny in Martha Coolidge’s HBO movie IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK 2. She also had a six-year run on the hit television series Dawson’s Creek. On stage, Williams received glowing reviews for her portrayal of Varya in Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. She also achieved critical acclaim for her run in Mike Leigh’s “Smelling a Rat” at the Samuel Beckett Theatre and her off-Broadway debut in “Killer Joe.”

Williams is currently in production on Sam Raimi’s OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, opposite James Franco, where she stars as Glinda the Good Witch. In MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, the big screen debut from acclaimed TV and theatre director Simon Curtis, she stars as the iconic Marilyn Monroe…


Were you nervous when you took on the role Marilyn Monroe?

How could anyone not be? I kind of ignored it and tried to make her – in my own mind – not a famous person, more like a friend than an icon.

What went wrong for Marilyn during her time in England, working on The Prince and the Showgirl?

Well, what she anticipated and what actually happened were two very different things.  Whilst in London, Marilyn hoped that making a movie with the most esteemed actor of the time would in turn bring her the credibility that she deserved and craved. It was a plan that she had set up with her friend turned business partner, Milton Greene — playing a part that Vivien Leigh had created on stage opposite Laurence Olivier – a stunning career move. But Marilyn felt that she was mistreated and laughed at, that Olivier sneered at her and didn’t treat her with the kind of respect that she was hoping for. She felt that she needed allies and she found one in Colin Clark.

Marilyn was surrounded by the likes of Milton Greene and Paula Strasberg. Is there a sense that they were looking out for themselves more than her?

Yes. There is definitely a sense that there is a lot going on that she doesn’t know about,  whispers in the hallway,  looks, fleeting glances, there’s suspicion everywhere because she had a tremendous talent and also a tremendous vulnerability, making her appealing but also the perfect prey.

Her relationship with Olivier started well, obviously, and he hoped he’d court her, right?

You see how he thought, in a misguided way, that she might fall in love with him, that he might have an affair with the most beautiful, desired woman in the world. Instead he found her to be unprofessional, childlike, and believed that she relied too much on her acting coach, Paula Strasberg.

Were there any avenues of research that proved especially rewarding or surprising?

There were all kinds of things. I read anything and everything that I could get my hands on. The most useful thing was to watch her movies over and over again, to have them in my ears, to make them play like a screen in my mind.

Do you have any favourites?

I am very fond of The Prince and the Showgirl still – I can’t count the number of times I have seen it! Of course Some Like It Hot and I have special affection for The Misfits as it was a treasured opportunity for her to take on a dramatic role.



Michelle Williams Photos | My Week with Marilyn Film Page

My Week with Marilyn is out November 25th