Michelle Williams talks 'Blue Valentine' and its NC-17 rating

Image credit: Solarpix/PR Photos

On the eve of Blue Valentine‘s Los Angeles premiere at the AFI Film Festival tomorrow night, I had the opportunity to talk to its star Michelle Williams, who’s currently in London filming the lead role of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. As I’ve said ad nauseam already, if this woman doesn’t get a Best Actress nomination for this performance, it will be very sad. Here Williams and I discuss her emotionally raw film (directed by Derek Cianfrance), its NC-17 rating, and what she plans to do after wrapping Marilyn.

Entertainment Weekly: Do you wish you could be here in Los Angeles for the AFI screening tomorrow, or are you happy not to see the film with what could easily be a jaded industry crowd?
Michelle Williams: I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess at this point there’s been so many premieres all over the globe, that I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on anything. Is that a bad thing to say? People are going to examine what you’ve done, so I guess in that sense I’m happy to not suffer through that experience, because it is obviously such an exposed piece of work. So maybe I’m lucky to be hiding out in London.

You and Ryan Gosling must share such a strong bond after making this movie together. You’ll occasionally see each other at a premiere or a photo shoot, but do you otherwise stay in close touch?
I haven’t really talked to him about this, but that movie went so deep, that for a while when we would see each other, we were kind of where our characters left off for a few moments in time. And it’s been kind of like a re-getting to know you. I don’t know what his feeling would be. But he’s the master of YouTube, so every so often I just get this flurry of videos. Things that only have, like, 312 views on them. I can’t even begin to describe them.

I’ve had people say to me, “There’s no way I can see Blue Valentine—it just sounds way too depressing.” What would you say to them?
I wish I was John Cassavetes right now. For some reason I was on YouTube last night, and I was watching this John Cassavetes interview. Have you seen how John Cassavetes would promote a film? Oh. My. God. You’ve got to see it. There’s this incredible interview, it’s like eight minutes. It’s all him talking. Gena Rowlands is sitting next to him, Ben Gazzara is there. And it’s eight minutes of him selling Opening Night. I wish that I was as ballsy and maybe born a man to answer that question. Okay, you don’t have to put that in the article.

But I will! I’ll link to it.
You should totally link to it! It is so insane how he loves his own movie but doesn’t come off as being full of it or obnoxious in any way. I feel like I’m not really here to sell anything. It’s not my talent or my interest. I wouldn’t know how to convince people other than the fact that I believe in happy endings, and I believe that where the movie ends is not where the story ends. And as dark and as dangerous as the movie can feel, there is a balance in the movie. You can’t have that much dark without that much light. It’s not all a suicide watch.

The main reason why the movie is sometimes so hard to watch is that there are so many moments where you two seem like the perfect couple, but then you’re in danger of letting it all slip away. Were there times during filming where you had a hard time rationalizing your character’s behavior?
Have you seen the new cut? Some of the answers may be in the new cut. But from the moment I said yes to the film, my next sentence was, “How am I going to leave him?” Because in my experience of the world, women don’t leave men who are essentially good fathers. Despite the fact that they might have a whole litany of other problems, you don’t leave somebody who’s a good dad. I might have driven Derek a little crazy—every time I would see him I would say, “How do I leave this guy? What’s so awful about him? At the end of the day he loves me and he loves our daughter.” What I finally came to is, it’s not him, it’s me.

A lot has been written about the MPAA’s decision to give the movie an NC-17. Harvey Weinstein is appealing the ruling, but the MPAA is known for being very stubborn. Would you rather the film be edited a little bit to get an R rating, or stay how it is but have far fewer people see it because it’s NC-17?
I’m happy for it to stay just like it is. Genuinely, I am. Movies get to have long lives and it’ll be judged and rejudged in 10 or 20 or 30 years, and I’ll be curious to see how it stands. It seems like such a condemnation. It feels like such a slap on the hand, like you’ve been a bad kid or something.

Right now you’re playing Marilyn Monroe, who went through so much turmoil in her life. How are you holding up?
Um…um…ummmm…It’s hard to talk about. I’ve never really had the experience of talking about something while I’ve been in the middle of making it. I don’t know what to say that is honest and not like, “Oh, fine, great.” I don’t know how to have an honest answer that’s not going to give away what I’m still working on. But after this movie, I’m taking some time off. I’m not working for another year. Talk to me in three weeks and then I’ll be able to summarize it better.

Please follow me on Twitter (@davekarger) for Oscar updates.

Comments (41 total) Add your comment
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  • ziggy

    She is so mature, eloquent and endlessly fascinating as an actor. I really look forward to Blue Valentine, even if it does tear me apart. Also, the MM film sounds interesting; I know she can pull off the charming, talented & broken side of MM.

    • mary q contrary

      “She is so mature, eloquent and endlessly fascinating as an actor.”

      You said it. Fascinating is the perfect word. She just has such an honest, un-Hollywood air about her. It’s refreshing. It doesn’t hurt that she’s one of our generation’s most gifted performers, either.

      • bruno

        what a wonderful talented woman. more “stars” in hollywood should follow in her footsteps. let the work speak for itself and all the publicity BS not be about you being famous.

  • Jennifer

    I love how carefully she worded ” in my experience of the world..” It must be a terrible burden to know that no matter what happens for the rest of her life and career, people will always assume every statement she makes about men, fathers and relationships is about Heath Ledger. Every time she opens her mouth on those subjects it will be dissected and analyzed. Poor thing.

    On the other hand, I wish I could say that my most recent job was tough, so I’m not going to work for the next year. Oh, the luxury!

  • B

    I’m interested to see this movie; I hope the MPAA stops being stupid about the rating, considering the horrible violence allowed in PG-13 movies now. Children aren’t going to see it, even if it’s rated R.

    P.S. It’s “ad nauseam” with an “a” not a “u”.

    • Dave Karger

      Thanks for the spelling catch, B! And I even took Latin for 6 years!

      • MM

        Great interview! In the third last question’s answer, you’re missing a word. It reads “Some the answers may be…”

  • alex21

    i love her.. she seems so wonderful and normal and like she just wants to be an actress because she enjoys the craft, and raise her kid. she’s lovely

  • Rachel

    I adore her!

  • skinnyfat

    so overrated. i dread her Marilyn impersonation.

  • Tim Lade

    Great interview Dave! I am excited to see Blue Valentine. Come hell or high water I’ll see it.

  • Krystal

    I think Michelle Williams is underrated. Look at her fabulous job in Shutter Island and Brokeback Mountain. She’s understated yet amazing.

    • REASON

      It is hard for me to believe that she is such a great actress when she chewed the scenery more than anyone full of a cast of scenery chewers on Dawson’s Creek. I have yet to see her in anything that has blown me away.

      • Erin

        Really? She was my favorite in Dawsons Creek. Her last episode was beatifully done. Kate Holmes received all the love but IMO she was the well over-rated scenery chewer.

  • Voice of Reason

    Wow, somehow she got uglier!

    • Kiwi

      yes this is an awful picture of her! yikes!

    • tf1245

      I thought it was just me but wow – who dressed her or let her go out like that, she looks like she’s 60!

  • ChrisV

    No doubt, she is a great actress. I never got to see her small indy film a year or two ago… the one with her dog. I still hope to catch it soon. Good for her for sticking up for the movie as-is, with no edits.

    • noam

      i think you’re talking about wendy and lucy. it’s available on netflix and was, awhile ago at least, on hulu. it’s really quite good, as is the station agent, which is another indie she was in that didn’t get nearly enough attention, in my opinion…

  • BeBe

    Is anyone else taken back on how much she looks like Marilyn in the picture above?

    • UNDESERVED ACCOLADES

      She does not look like Marilyn Monroe. Are you kidding? You need to rent some Marilyn Monroe movies. She is not pretty enough to play Marilyn Monroe. Michelle would never have come this far
      without Heath Ledger’s fame. He was talented and
      she is not.

  • Ash

    she’s a piglet. Totally wooden as an actress, but she’s very pretentious, especially about her movie choices

    • jules

      Wow. You just canceled out chance of credibility with the phrase, “she’s a piglet.” Why? Because she’s not emaciated and gaunt?
      And how does the fact that she puts thought into what roles she chooses to play make her “pretentious?”
      Ash, you make think she’s a “piglet” but clearly you are the real pig.

      • Voice of Reason

        Are you calling her fat?

    • Ash

      She’s definitely not fat, just her pretentious attitude is a turn off. She’s one of those people who thinks that indie movies are the best, even when they can be crappy.

    • talkin’

      pffft!

  • Paul

    Her performance in Synechdoche, New York was AMAZING too.For those who haven’t seen that film, you can’t just see it once. DEFINITELY.

    She’s really talented.

  • John Zur

    Check out “Wendy and Lucy” – one of my favorite films of all time…

  • fan

    Thank you Mr.Karger for supporting Ms. Williams as a great actress.

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