10 Roles That Made Us Love Michelle Williams: From 'Dawson's Creek' to 'The Greatest Showman'
It's been announced this week that Michelle Williams has been cast as King Henry VIII's six and final wife, Katherine Parr, in the intriguing psychological horror movie Firebrand. To whet your appetite, here's a reminder of some of the film and TV roles that have made Williams one of the most acclaimed – and consistently enjoyable to watch – actors of her generation.
1. Dawson's Creek (1998-2003)
Williams made her name in this seminal teen series playing Jen Lindley, arguably its most compelling character. When Jen arrives in Capeside in the first season, she's an outsider with a checkered past, and Williams conveys both her tough front and the vulnerability lurking just beneath the surface. In a 2012 interview, Williams admitted that she felt insecure when her character got less screen time than Dawson (James Van Der Beek), Joey (Katie Holmes), and Pacey (Joshua Jackson), but there's no denying that her character's rather enigmatic quality left a lasting impression.
2. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
This game-changing LGBTQ movie directed by Ang Lee is a masterpiece of subtlety and compassion. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are heartbreakingly tender as Jack and Ennis, two cowboys who develop illicit feelings for one another in the early 1960s. As Ennis's wife Alma, who's both floored and slightly repulsed by their affair, Williams delivers a beautifully understated performance that deservedly earned her the first Oscar nomination of her career.
3. Blue Valentine (2010)
Director Derek Cianfrance's revered indie movie is kind of an anti-romance. Deftly shifting back and forward in time, it charts the incredibly messy breakup of married couple Cindy and Dean (Williams and Ryan Gosling), while offering glimpses of what once made them such a close couple. It's an emotionally bruising affair featuring brilliantly intense performances from both actors. And when Williams was nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars, it confirmed her star was rising fast.
4. My Week with Marilyn (2012)
Playing an icon as instantly familiar as Marilyn Monroe must be a daunting prospect, but Williams pulls it off brilliantly here. In a film set during the making of 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl in London, Williams captures the actress's vulnerability, charisma, flirtatiousness, steeliness, and talent as she clashes with co-star Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and bonds with movie set gopher Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). It's a luminous performance that won Williams a Golden Globe award plus Oscar and BAFTA nominations.
5. Suite Française (2015)
This romantic movie set in German-occupied France during World War II is well worth seeking out. Williams plays Lucile Angellier, a young woman left with her hard-nosed and overbearing mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) while her husband is off fighting in the trenches. Lucile's suffocated life improves massively when a dashing German soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) is sent to live with them, setting the stage for a passionate clandestine romance. Despite the odd period drama cliché, this is classy stuff that gives Williams the chance to bounce off a wonderfully haughty Scott Thomas.
6. Certain Women (2016)
The third film (to date) that Williams has made with director Kelly Reichardt – following 2008's Wendy and Lisa and 2010's Meek's Cutoff – is probably the best yet. Low-key and melancholy, Certain Women follows the interlocking lives of four small-town Montana women played by Williams, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone. As a superficially successful businesswoman and mother slowly realizing she is emotionally distant from her family, Williams is on commanding form.
7. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Casey Affleck won an Oscar for his performance as Lee Chandler, an utterly grief-stricken man who bonds with his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) several years after an unthinkable tragedy. Williams' supporting role as Lee's ex-wife, Randi – equally grief-stricken, but trying to move on with her life – doesn't get masses of screen time, but she makes every second count. One of her scenes is so tender and heart-rending that it's easy to see why she picked up her fourth Oscar nomination.
8. All the Money in the World (2017)
Sadly, Ridley Scott's gripping crime biopic was somewhat overshadowed by controversy. After numerous accusations of sexual misconduct were made against Kevin Spacey, he was replaced by Christopher Plummer in the key role of billionaire businessman J. Paul Getty, necessitating last-minute reshoots. When it emerged that Mark Wahlberg had been paid $1.5 million for these extra scenes, whereas Williams received a daily allowance of just $80, Wahlberg was widely criticized. He later donated his fee to the Time's Up movement in Williams' name. Still, Williams is brilliantly believable as Gail Harris, the petrified mother of the mogul's kidnapped grandson John Paul Getty III. She duly earned herself another Golden Globe nomination.
9. The Greatest Showman (2018)
Williams starred in a 2014 Broadway revival of Cabaret, and she gets to show some of her musical theater skills here – check out her impressive rendition of the stirring ballad "Tightrope." She's suitably sparky as Charity Barnum, lively and loyal wife of Hugh Jackman's ambitious circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum, adding extra value to a musical movie that's really a good old-fashioned crowd-pleaser.
10. Fosse/Verdon (2019)
Williams portrays another iconic actress, Broadway legend Gwen Verdon, in this riveting miniseries about Verdon's personal and professional relationship with innovative choreographer-director Bob Fosse. It's a dazzling performance that gives Williams the chance to show off her singing and dancing chops while getting under the skin of a tough, talented woman who remained fiercely loyal to Fosse even when their romantic relationship floundered. The Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards she won are richly deserved.
Have we missed out on one of your favorite Michelle Williams performances?