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Michelle Williams first came to stardom as a star of teen drama Dawson's Creek. She rose to critical acclaim with films such as Blue Valentine and Brokeback Mountain.
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The film was a critical and financial success, and Williams was nominated for her first Academy Award for Supporting Actress for the role. That year was also a year of personal milestones for Williams: she became engaged to Brokeback co-star Heath Ledger, and gave birth to their daughter, Mathilda Rose, on October 28th.
Difficulties arose in Williams' personal life when she and actor Heath Ledger split in the fall of 2007. Ledger died tragically in 2008 of a prescription drug overdose, and the grieving Williams had to deal with both her personal mourning for the father of her child and the intrusion of the paparazzi into her life. "I experienced a lot of loss after his death. I lost my city because of all the paparazzi descending upon us. I actually lost my journal during that time, oddly enough ... Things were just streaming away from me. I lost my sense of humor. I'm still sort of looking for that." She later described the year following his death as a "year of magical thinking ... In a strange way, I miss that year, because all those possibilities that existed then are gone. It didn't seem unlikely to me that he could walk through a door or could appear behind a bush."
Michelle Williams rebounded from her grief by throwing herself into work for a year, releasing four films in short succession. She went to the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 to promote two films, Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York and the critically acclaimed independent film Wendy and Lucy, from director Kelly Reichardt. She then filmed Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island opposite Leonardo DiCaprio.
In 2010, Williams starred in the relationship drama Blue Valentine opposite Ryan Gosling. She was again nominated for an Academy Award, this time for Best Actress. In 2011, Williams appeared in another of Kelly Reichardt's films, Meek's Cutoff, playing one of a group of pioneers lost in the Oregon Territory in 1845.
Williams often defines her primary role as a mother, but continues to act in a variety of films, shifting easily from roles in low-budget independent films to mainstream productions. One of her most recent triumphs was as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. Her portrayal of the late Hollywood sex symbol earned her many glowing reviews and several professional accolades, including a Golden Globe Award.
Still, Michelle Williams tries not to lose some essential sense of self in her work: "I wanted to work outside the system, which is why all this fame is a real brain teaser. What am I supposed to do with it? Can you work the system without it working you?" Thus far, Williams appears to be remarkably successful at doing so.
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