Michelle Williams on Interpreting Marilyn Monroe

Her portrayal of the icon is earning praise from many reviewers.

Claudia Puig writes in USA TODAY that “While My Week With Marilyn is more an awestruck reverie than a revelatory biopic, it’s worth seeing for Williams’ bravura performance.”

Roger Ebert thinks “The movie seems to be a fairly accurate re-creation of the making of a film at Pinewood Studios at that time. It hardly matters. What happens during the famous week hardly matters. What matters is the performance by Michelle Williams.

“She evokes so many Marilyns, public and private, real and make-believe. We didn’t know Monroe, but we believe she must have been something like his. We’re probably looking at one of this year’s Oscar nominees.”

A number of those reviewers refer to her exceptional performance as “channeling Marilyn Monroe.”

But I think that idea discounts Williams’ intense emotional and intellectual work in realizing such a complex and powerful performance; Williams is not a passive “channel” – she is a very actively engaged artist.

In the article “Michelle Williams channels Marilyn Monroe” (By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times November 20, 2011), Williams refers to some of her emotional challenges and vulnerability in portraying Monroe.

“Maybe it was Marilyn, but I felt more fragile than I usually do on this movie. I felt more dependent on other people’s kindnesses. I would live off a compliment that the camera man gave me for two weeks. It would feed me. It would get me out of bed.”

> Here is more from the article:

After [Heath Ledger’s] death, Williams struggled to find her footing in Hollywood. She took a year off, she said, “unsure of how I would go back, or if I wanted to go back” to acting. After she began to emerge from the fog of grief, she recommitted herself to the craft and decided to take a more gut-driven approach to her career.

“I read this Flaubert quote once that I really love: ‘I want to live the quiet life of the bourgeois so that I can be violent and unrestrained in my work,” she said, reciting the words from memory. “And I like that. Live the simple life and save all your extra forces for your work.”

When she read the script for “My Week With Marilyn,” adapted for the screen by Adrian Hodges, Williams instantly felt compelled to do the movie. Growing up, her room had been filled with images of Monroe: a cardboard cutout and a poster of her running through a field, arms outstretched, joyous.

“I remember thinking that if even a woman that beautiful clearly has trouble and is damaged and has insecurities, then we’re all entitled,” said Williams, who was born 18 years after Monroe died. …


“With any sort of part that I take, there’s a hint of an idea of how I’m gonna do it. I don’t really know the full scope of it, but there’s something inside of me gravitating towards it.”

To figure out who Monroe — “this stranger” — was in the months leading to filming, Williams spent hours practicing Monroe’s vocal cadences in her house while Matilda was at school. She’d teeter around in high heels, tying a belt around her knees to experiment with how to achieve Monroe’s famous wiggle.

“The biggest discovery I made was that Marilyn Monroe was a character she played,” said Williams, explaining she reached that conclusion through reading Monroe’s own writing as well as accounts by photographer Eve Arnold.

[One book Williams may have read: My Story, by Marilyn Monroe.]

“So I lived with her, and I never stopped trying to find more information. Even on set, on the 10-minute breaks, I would be back poring through photos or with my earphones in watching a movie. I was obsessed. I was on the trail of something. There were clues, and I had to solve a mystery.”

Harvey Weinstein, whose company is releasing the film, said he was impressed at the level of Williams’ preparation, how she could quote passages from Maurice Zolotow’s biography on Monroe.

“Michelle researches a role like no one I’ve ever encountered,” Weinstein wrote in an email. “She watched and studied the movies and photos; she read every book, every biography.… She could describe how Marilyn wiggled and winked while quoting some of her best lines, [like] when she teased that she was nude by saying, ‘I have nothing on but the radio.'” …

Don Murray, who costarred with Monroe in “Bus Stop” — which she shot immediately before “The Prince and the Showgirl” — said he didn’t find one false note in Williams’ interpretation of the legendary actress.

“Those who have worked with Marilyn say ‘Bus Stop’ was her best-behaved film, but she was still two or three hours late and also had trouble remembering her lines. The littlest thing would disturb her and send her concentration flying,” recounted Murray, 82. “I was astonished at how Michelle captured that. She got that total confusion — almost falling apart emotionally. Marilyn suffered every little thing.”

Williams — in production on Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz” prequel — said “My Week With Marilyn” helped her to finally grow up. It was both the biggest challenge she’s ever taken on and the most fulfilling, she added, because it helped her to accept herself.

“I think I became an adult making this movie. I’ve always been scared of myself somehow. Or apologetic or something,” she said quietly. “I just felt for a long time that I was grappling with something I couldn’t quite master or understand.

“But I’ve been a parent for six years now. I have an amazing daughter, and at some point in the last year, it dawned on me that has to have something to do with me. And I need to give myself a break.”

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One of the many elements of My Week With Marilyn that I appreciated was the depiction of the emotional challenges Monroe suffered from the onslaught of fame and media attention.

See more quotes in my Creative Mind post Michelle Williams on Acting and Imagination.

See comments by both Marilyn Monroe and Michelle Williams, and other stars, in my post :
Actor’s Privacy and The Dark Side of Fame

Many very talented actors like Williams – as well as other artists – feel unusually ‘fragile’ or ’emotional’ – at least sometimes. It may go along with being a highly sensitive person (HSP), which about 20% of us are.

See my post Using your high sensitivity personality.

Also see my related site Highly Sensitive.

Some other comments of Williams refer to self-esteem and insecurity. Many creative people report feeling incompetent, inadequate and having low self esteem or self-regard at times. But there are ways to shift those feelings.

One of my posts on the topic: Actors and self esteem.

My Week with Marilyn [DVD]

Book: The Michelle Williams Handbook – Everything you need to know about Michelle Williams, by Emily Smith.

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Article publié pour la première fois le 27/04/2015

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