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.