Michelle Williams, the guest on this episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, is one of the most admired stage and screen actresses of her generation.
A four-time Oscar nominee, a Tony nominee, an Emmy winner and a two-time Golden Globe winner, she broke into the public eye in her teens as Jen Lindley on The WB’s teen drama TV series Dawson’s Creek, on which she appeared from 1998 through 2003, en route to proving her tremendous abilities in films like 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, 2010’s Blue Valentine and Shutter Island, 2011’s My Week with Marilyn, 2016’s Manchester by the Sea and 2017’s The Greatest Showman and All the Money in the World; on Broadway in 2014’s Cabaret and 2016’s Blackbird; and on TV in the 2019 limited series Fosse/Verdon. In 2022, Williams shined as brightly as ever in Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical film The Fabelmans, playing Mitzi Fabelman, a thinly-disguised version of Spielberg’s own mother, the late Leah Adler.
Spielberg has said that Williams’ performance in The Fabelmans made him feel like he had his mother back, and as someone who had the pleasure of meeting his mother at The Milky Way, the West L.A. kosher restaurant that she ran in her later years, I can totally see why: the actress nails Adler’s physical appearance, manner of speaking and unmistakable joie-de-vivre.
This season, Williams has already received a special tribute at the Gotham Awards and was nominated for the best actress in a drama Golden Globe, and she is nominated for the best actress Critics Choice Award, with a best actress Oscar nomination likely to follow.
Over the course of a conversation at the Hotel Bel Air, the 42-year-old reflected on the pros and cons of her years as a child actor; the period of grief that she experienced following the sudden death of Heath Ledger, her co-star in Brokeback Mountain and the father of her oldest child, in 2008, and the degree to which it made her consider walking away from acting; what led her to pursue naturalism in her early performances, but more recently to embrace expressionistic work; why she had a harder time saying goodbye to her character from The Fabelmans than any other that she has played; plus much more.
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