Williams' Early Life and Career
Michelle Ingrid Williams, now 37, was born in Kalispell, Montana on September 8, 1980. She started acting at a young age, with small appearances on television shows like ‘Baywatch’ and films like ‘Lassie.’ Her family relocated to San Diego, California, where it was easier for her to pursue acting. In high school, she decided that she hated being in school and elected to get in home tutoring instead. At fifteen, with the approval of her parents, she became emancipated. This would allow her to be free of child labour laws and become an actress full time. Williams followed her parents’ wishes and got her GED before leaving school for good.
'Dawson's Creek' and Other Early Work
Williams moved to Los Angeles in 1996, where she starred in a number of low budget indie films to support herself. A notable role came in 1997 when she starred alongside Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer in ‘Killing Mr. Griffin.’ In 1998, she landed a role on popular teen show ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ which ran from 1998 to 2003. Williams played Jen Lindley, a promiscuous teenage girl who moves to the show’s fictional town of Capeside from New York. She became famous alongside co-stars, James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson and Busy Phillips. Williams and Phillips are still close friends, and frequently pop up on each other’s social media. Also in 1998, Williams was in the seventh movie in the ‘Halloween’ franchise, ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.’ The film remains one of her highest grossing films, pulling in $55 million. She played one of several teenagers traumatized by the villian. While she was on ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ William’s was able to participate in several independent movies. She said that she enjoyed these roles much more than her role on ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ but the financial stability she gained from being on a hit show allowed her to explore more indie roles. During this time, she was in ‘Dick,’ a parody of the Watergate scandal with Kirsten Dunst, and ‘Me Without You’ about an obsessive female friendship.
Stage Roles and 'Brokeback Mountain'
In 1999, Williams began starring in ‘Killer Joe,’ a violent off-broadway play about a dysfunctional family who kill the head of the family for their inheritance money. In the play, she did a nude scene, which she felt was freeing, but was disapproved of by her parents. Her next role was in the HBO movie ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2,’ in which she acted out a lesbian sex scene. She defended her performance after it was criticized for being too sexual, but often stayed away from overtly sexual roles in the future. After the end of ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ William’s moved to New York City, where she made a few small budget films and acted in several more stage shows. She played the lead female character in ‘The Station Agent,’ who falls in love with Peter Dinklage’s character. The film was well received and nominated for a Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Outstanding Cast. On stage, she played Varya in ‘The Cherry Orchard,’ an Anton Chekov drama. Jessica Chastain also starred in the production, which was well received. In 2004, Williams received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her part in ‘Land of Plenty,’ a drama about post 9/11 America. Williams’ breakout role came in 2005, when she played a supporting role in Ang Lee’s ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ The film is about a romance between two men, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Williams plays Ledger’s wife and she gained recognition for the role despite the fact that it was such a small role in the film. She was nominated for her first Academy Award for her performance, as well as being nominated for a SAG Award, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ ended up winning three Oscars; Best Director for Ang Lee, Best Adapted Screenplay for Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana and Best Original Score for Gustavo Santaolalla.
Williams' Relationship with Heath Ledger
After meeting Ledger on the set of ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ he and Williams began dating in 2004. They lived together in New York until their split in 2007. Williams gave birth to their daughter, Matilda, in October of 2005 and she was deeply affected by Ledger’s death in 2008. William’s received the news that he had died while filming in Sweden, and says that she does not remember much of the rest of filming. She was often hounded by paparazzi following Ledger’s overdose, which led Williams to become more reclusive. Just a few weeks ago, her longtime friend and ‘Dawson’s Creek’ co-star Busy Phillips flew across the country to be with her on the tenth anniversary of Ledger’s death.
Trouble at the Box Office, 'Shutter Island' and A New Hair Cut
Michelle Williams starred in a small series of box office and critical flops in 2006 and 2007. These included ‘The Hawk is Dying,’ with Paul Giamatti, ‘The Hottest State’ with Ethan Hawke, and ‘Incendiary’ with Ewan McGregor. Her next project, ‘Synecdoche, New York,’ was an experimental film that also bombed at the box office, but it was highly regarded by Roger Ebert, the famous film critic. ‘Wendy and Lucy,’ her other 2008 release was better received. It was a tiny film shot on a budget of $300,000 about a poor girl named Wendy and her dog Lucy. She also made waves in 2007 by acquiring a new hairstyle; the pixie cut. Her short blonde hair would continue to be a key part of her look until today, when she still sports the cropped hairstyle. Martin Scorsese asked her to appear in his horror film ‘Shutter Island’ in 2009. The film had a huge budget and production value, which is unusual for Williams as most of her performances have been in low budget films. She said it was difficult to get used to. The film also starred Leonardo Dicaprio and was a huge success, earning about $294 million. However, after its release, Williams decided to take a break from acting. She cited her tendency to play emotionally troubled women as taking a toll on her real life.
Although at first she was extremely reluctant to take the role, Williams began filming ‘Blue Valentine’ later in 2009. The director, Derek Cianfrance, was so intent on her being in the film that he moved production to Brooklyn, New York so Williams could be closer to her daughter. ‘Blue Valentine’ is about a dysfunctional couple, Cindy (Williams) and Dean played by Ryan Gosling. In order to prepare for the role, Williams and Gosling lived in an apartment together for a month and were able to channel their real life frustrations with each other into their roles. Cianfrance wanted the film to capture a relationship that felt real, and several scenes were improvised. The film was critically acclaimed and very highly regarded. ‘Blue Valentine’ earned Williams her second Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Lead Actress. She and Gosling were both nominated for Golden Globe Awards as well. They were both praised for giving an immense amount of depth and emotion to their performances.
'My Week With Mariyln'
In 2011, Williams took on another challenge when she played Marilyn Monroe in ‘My Week With Marilyn.’ Again, Williams was reluctant to take the role, but this time because she felt she did not have enough in common with Monroe. She read several biographies of Monroe as well as gaining weight and dying her hair to prepare for the role. After studying her mannerisms and learning to recreate her singing voice, Williams gave an incredible performance and was once again critically acclaimed. She would also be inspired to do more singing later in her career. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress and was nominated for her third Academy Award.
'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Return to the Stage and Other Movies
In 2011 she starred in ‘Take This Waltz’ with Seth Rogen, directed by Sarah Polley. Although a departure from Rogen’s usual style, it was similar to other small indie projects that Williams prefers. ‘Take This Waltz’ is about the crumbling marriage between Williams and Rogen and was compared to ‘Blue Valentine.’ Her next project was ‘Oz the Great and Powerful,’ in which she played Glinda the Good Witch. She wanted to be in the movie so her daughter could see her act. ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ earned $490 million, making it her highest grossing film. Williams became frustrated with film and turned to the stage for the next few years. She starred in the 2014 revival of the musical ‘Cabaret’ in which she also danced and sang. The reviews were mixed, but she was proud of her performance, calling it the hardest work she had ever done. She followed that performance up with a role in the 2016 revival of ‘Blackbird’ by David Harrower. She played a woman who confronted a much older man about sexually abusing her when she was young. The play was a critical success, and Williams was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress.
'Manchester By The Sea'
In late 2016, Williams returned to the screen with roles in ‘Certain Women’ and ‘Manchester By The Sea.’ ‘Certain Women’ was her third film with director Kelly Reichardt, the others being ‘Wendy and Lucy’ and ‘Meek’s Cutoff.’ The film was similar to the two other collaborations, focusing on interesting women and featuring long stretches without dialogue. ‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a drama about a depressed man played by Casey Affleck, and his wife (Williams). Although Williams’ role is relatively small, she was honored with her fourth Academy Award nomination for it.
'The Greatest Showman' and 'All the Money in the World'
In 2017, Williams landed a role in musical ‘The Greatest Showman,’ alongside Hugh Jackman. She sang two songs for the soundtrack, as she did with ‘My Week With Marilyn.’ The film received tepid reviews but was a box office success. ‘The Greatest Showman’ was followed up with ‘All the Money in the World,’ a Ridley Scott crime thriller. There were controversies throughout the production. First, Kevin Spacey was fired following the reveal of his past sexual misconduct, and then it was reported that Williams’ co-star Mark Wahlberg had been paid over $1 million for reshoots, while Williams was only paid $1,000. Scott said that all of the actors did reshoots for free, but this was untrue, and Williams found out after the shoot that Wahlberg was being paid $1.5 million. ‘All the Money in the World’ was generally well received, and Williams was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress. The scandals surrounding the film clouded its release, which instead drew attention to the Me Too movement, sexual assault allegations and the wage gap.
Upcoming Movies and Net Worth
'I Feel Pretty' and 'Venom'
Williams has a few upcoming projects. She plays a supporting role in Amy Schumer’s ‘I Feel Pretty,’ which will be in theaters in April, 2018. In ‘I Feel Pretty,’ she plays a powerful executive in charge of Amy Schumer’s character. The film is a highly anticipated follow-up to Schumer’s first film, ‘Trainwreck.’ Williams will also star in the upcoming superhero film ‘Venom’ with Tom Hardy, which will be released in October, 2018. The film is based on the Marvel comics series of the same name. She plays Ann Weying, or “She-Venom,” to Hardy’s Venom. The film is a spin-off of ‘Spiderman,’ and will continue Sony’s Marvel series.
Michelle Williams’ net worth in 2018 is $16 million. Official net worth aside, it is widely agreed that she deserves all the money in the world.