It's hard to believe now, as she sets her sights on yet another Oscar nomination, but Michelle Williams was on the verge of quitting showbusiness a few years ago.
"I wasn't sure if acting was the right place for me," she tells The Hollywood Reporter about a crisis of faith in 2008. "Or if I was any good or liked what I was doing anymore."
A little context: Williams had just suffered the loss of Heath Ledger, and had a string of less than successful films come out after her acclaimed, Oscar-nominated turn in "Brokeback Mountain." So it's quite understandable that doubt might creep in. And she's certainly being honest; Williams told Newsweek earlier this year that she "often dreams of quitting."
Luckily, things began to turn around; there was the offer to play the iconic Marilyn Monroe, and the exciting break that finally saw "Blue Valentine" get the green light. The latter, a damaged relationship drama, rejuvenated her spirit and desire to act, she tells THR. In fact, it "brought me back to life," she says. It also earned her another Oscar nomination, placing her amongst a new generation's most accomplished stars.
Still, for all of her success, a public is skeptical: can she pull off embodying the world's most beloved and famed movie star? There is significant public vested interest in the trademarks: the seductive smile, the dance moves, the false-naivety, the pain behind the eyes. Williams herself was unsure of her ability to do the role justice, and it took months of convincing and research to get her to agree to take on the part in "My Week With Marilyn."
What finally convinced her to make the leap, she says, was understanding that Marilyn herself was playing a role in public. All those things that made her an icon, Williams says, were showbusiness magic.
"For me, the most crucial discovery -- the flash -- was that the widely accepted image of Marilyn Monroe was a character that Norma Jeane played," Williams reveals; Norma Jeane was Monroe's birth name. "Unless you study her and understand her a bit better than the commonly accepted view, one could miss who she was underneath that. Marilyn was a part she played."
And so, in reality, Williams is playing Norma Jeane. And yet, while it was getting to the core of that hidden truth that propelled her performance, that doesn't mean that she didn't have fun relishing the same part Norma Jeane played, tantalizing in the skin of the icon.
"I do remember one moment of being all suited up as Marilyn and walking from my dressing room onto the soundstage practicing my wiggle," Williams told Vogue earlier this year. "There were three or four men gathered around a truck, and I remember seeing that they were watching me come and feeling that they were watching me go--and for the very first time I glimpsed some idea of the pleasure I could take in that kind of attention; not their pleasure but my pleasure. And I thought, Oh, maybe Marilyn felt that when she walked down the beach."
For more on Williams' transformation, click over to The Hollywood Reporter.