If, like me, you were a teenager in the late-’90s, you know Michelle Williams first and foremost as Jen Lindley, the big city bad girl who shook things up in Capeside on The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek.” Since then, her career has taken daring turns, earning her critical acclaim to go along with two Academy Award nominations for her roles in “Brokeback Mountain” and “Blue Valentine.” William’s latest role has her playing none other than Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn.” During my interview, Michelle spoke about the challenge she faced in playing one of the most famous women in history.
Was there any hesitation on your part in taking on such an iconic role, playing Marilyn Monroe?
I knew the moment that I closed the script that I was going to say yes, and that I wanted to play that part and I wanted to make that movie. And that was followed very closely by a feeling of dread because I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I knew I was in for maybe the challenge of my adult work life. So there was hesitation but I kind of had to ignore it because it wasn’t going to help me or get me anywhere good. So I tried to just flip it off like a switch in my head.
I feel like our generation knows Marilyn Monroe strictly as the icon and isn’t really familiar with her films. How familiar were you with her work before you took on this project?
Not at all, really. I was familiar with her from her image. I had pictures of her in my bedroom when I was growing up, and I’ve always been drawn to her image, even recently. I think a lot of people are, though. She transmitted so much through just a simple photograph. But I really wasn’t familiar with her film work at all.
The film takes place over the course of a week. Was it a challenge to distill the essence of Marilyn into such a small time frame, story-wise?
Actually, in some ways, it was a real comfort. This movie isn’t a “biopic.” We don’t start at the beginning and end at the end. Its not a tragedy. There are tragic elements to Marilyn Monroe. She carried them with her. But the movie itself isn’t a tragedy. Its a moment in time, and some of that moment in time is a real fairy tale. Its a treat, a confection, its a fun ride. And so I felt comforted by the fact that I didn’t have an obligation to her whole life story. And really, she’s a character in this movie. It’s not “The Marilyn Monroe Show.” She’s one of a cast of colorful characters that tells this story.
You open the film singing the song “Heat Wave.” Was this your first time singing on camera?
Yes, [it was] my first time probably singing and dancing on camera. The last time singing and dancing was on a stage when I was 8 or 9.