Michelle Williams takes on the iconic role of Marilyn Monroe in the indie film My Week with Marilyn. Currently in theaters, the film is based on Colin Clark's book of the same name and chronicles his time spent working with Monroe while she was in England shooting the romantic comedy The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956.
Williams sat down with Reuters to talk about portraying Monroe, the film, shooting her current role of Glinda the good witch in Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful and her six-year-old daughter Matilda with late actor Heath Ledger.
Q: Did you have an awareness of Marilyn Monroe and her starpower when you were younger?
A: I was interested in her, but then I kind of lost track of her over the last 10 years or so. I had a poster of her up in my room. It wasn't a picture of her as the icon, it was a picture of her looking like an ordinary joyful girl. So I definitely had some kind of connection. (Working on this film) reignited whatever initial, sort of, attraction I had to her when I was a teenager.
Q: Did you do your own singing in the film?
A: Yes and my mother is going to be so excited when she sees this. She always wanted me to sing and dance. I had so much fun doing that!
Q: So doing a musical could be in the cards for you?
A: I would love to. What's so liberating about singing and dancing is that it turns your head off. You coast on this wave of muscle memory. You literally can't think while you're performing. There's a kind of transcendence to it. I think maybe that's why Marilyn was so especially talented at it. Her singing and dancing are unparalleled and her musical numbers are just breathtaking.
Q: The film used many of the same locations in shooting Prince and the Showgirl. Did that add to the production?
A: There was a lot of synchronicity. We shot in the actual Parkside house (that Marilyn lived in). My dressing room at Pinewood was Marilyn's actual dressing room. That was so special. The stage where she shot that song and dance number was the stage where I shot mine. So many of the props in our movie were in the original 'Prince and the Showgirl' movie.
Q: Did it ever feel ghostly?
A: Well, it's all energy. And it's what you make of it. I like to make things out of nothing! (laughs) I like to spin things out of thin air, so that stuff works for me.
Q: Did you wear wigs for the part, or grow out your hair?
A: I wore wigs, but I had to keep my hair really bleached underneath because it would show through the wigs. My eyebrows had to be dark and they were reshaped. You go through so many grotesque phases making movies (laughs). I never really feel quite like myself. I just feel like a mutant -- always halfway in between some other person and myself. I don't know what belongs to me and what doesn't!
Q: After filming ended was it hard to let go of Marilyn?
A: I think when you work in a way that really gets under your skin, its not an easy break. You make a little extra room for these people that you play and then they leave. You're left with this hollow space. I wish I could play her again.
Q: Does your daughter Matilda come to set?
A: She comes with me everywhere.
Q: How do you balance getting into character and then going home at the end of the day to be a mom?
A: What works for me is to have a commute from where we live to where I work. So that in the morning, I leave the house behind and walk clean and fresh into my professional life. And then the same thing on the way home. I find that a 20 or 30 minute commute makes a kind of passageway for me that I need.
Q: You're currently shooting OZ, playing Glinda. Matilda must love coming to that set.
A: It's the best thing professionally that's happened to us. It has brought her on board my work in a way that wasn't possible in a movie like 'Marilyn' or 'Blue Valentine.' On those, there was no space for a kid to come visit and be a kid. (With 'Oz') she comes every single day after school because it's like a playground. She says, 'There's only one good witch and it's my mom.' She's very excited about it.
Q: It's interesting that you said the project was the best thing to happen professionally to us not me.
A: Definitely. Every choice that I make is about how it's going to affect our life -- where it films, how long it is, what else is going on in her year, what's the last job I did, how much time I've had off in between, how much time we had to really deeply connect and how long can we sustain a period of time where I'm working. So when 'Oz' came along, it was very clear to me that it was the right decision for us.