Michelle Williams has come a long way since the seemingly carefree days on the TV series, "Dawson's Creek." Now a prominent actress with a Golden Globe nomination for her latest film, "Blue Valentine," the notoriously private Williams opened up about shooting the very emotional movie and her life since Health Ledger's death.
Williams, 30, is currently starring in "Blue Valentine" opposite actor Ryan Gosling which will open this week. It's a complex and heart-wrenching love story about a couple that keeps coming together and falling apart. Williams said she originally read the script almost a decade ago.
"I think I was 21 when I first read it," she said. "Almost a third of my life has been devoted to thinking about making this movie."
She added that she was very pleased with the result.
The film feels almost like a documentary, a look achieved by an unusual film-making method: Williams and co-star Ryan Gosling actually lived in the house used in the movie.
"We were told to make memories basically and then have it as [the characters] Dean and Cindy would," Williams said. "To make a budget, to go grocery shopping, to bake a birthday cake ... go to the Sears family portrait studio ... all that kind of stuff."
The result is an incredibly stunning and powerful film where the actors and their emotions are laid bare -- including erotic scenes of the couple in various stages of love-making and nudity.
Williams who is petite and slender, said that like many other women she is never fully comfortable with how her body looks.
"I mean, I am single, I mean I don't think that this movie isn't exactly like the perfect calling card," she said laughing, then more seriously, "I let myself be far more brave and confident and risk-taking in my work than I ever would be in my life."
When Gosling joined the interview, the two reflected on their intimate connection on camera. Gosling raved about working with Williams, saying she reminds him of a cross between "Bridget Bardot and Clint Eastwood."
"She's like Montana," Gosling said of Williams. "If you want to get somewhere, you gotta, you gotta drive there. You gotta take the time to get there."
Not to be out-done, Williams teased, "He's Christ-like," but then, with clear admiration, "Ryan has this amazing ability to be, I found, to be deeply and utterly and totally inside of his character."
Since filming "Blue Valentine," gossip magazines have been buzzing that the two are dating, which both Williams and Gosling denied through giggles.
"No, we're professionals," Gosling said, then turning to Williams, "I mean is that OK?"
"It's OK," Williams said. "I know he looks like he's lying but he's not."
"I always look like I'm lying," Gosling quipped. "It's just -- that's my face."
Williams was first thrust into the spotlight when she was just a teenager making the hit television series "Dawson's Creek." In the years following she landed roles in a series of high-profile films.
Her break-through moment came in "Brokeback Mountain" which earned her an Oscar nomination. The film also found her falling in love with her co-star the late Health Ledger.
She looked back fondly on making the film with Ledger, saying she was "happy at work." She added that often she doesn't remember filming many of her movies but that she remembers this one, the film where she fell in love.
"Maybe that's the secret," Williams said, laughing.
The enormous success of "Brokeback Mountain" catapulted both Williams and Ledger into super stardom.
The couple had their daughter, Matilda, in 2005, but the two were separated by the following year. Then in January 2008, Ledger was found dead in his New York City apartment from an accidental drug overdose of prescription medication. He had just wrapped up shooting the blockbuster hit, "The Dark Knight."
Williams' relationship with Ledger is a subject she has declined to discuss, but said she said she "understood" people's curiosity about how she has coped with his death.
After he died, Williams said she was comforted by reading "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, a book written about Didion's difficulty in letting go of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, in the first year after he died. Williams said she experienced very much the same thing.
"It didn't seem unlikely to me that he could walk through a door, or could appear behind a bush," she said. "In some ways, I am just, I am sad to be moving further and further away from it."
Like Didion who writes about how life can change in an instant, Williams said she, "got kind of obsessed with that for a while, [the] 'before and after."
Now raising 5-year-old Matilda, Williams is a dedicated and enthusiastic mother. She said she wants her daughter to have a normal life, but acknowledged the requirements of her career makes that a "challenge."
"It is of more importance to me than anything else in my life," she said. "I would re-arrange anything to make that possible. If something starts to encroach on that ... it's gonna be removed from the equation."
Despite the sorrow in her life, Williams is clearly mending and moving forward.
"If I could go back and tell myself at 15 that I would be allowed to make this kind of work and I would be in this kind of community, I wish I could tell that girl that everything was going to turn out okay in her work," Williams said. "It's strange, at every point I was like, 'that's enough for me' and then I'd get given a little bit more."