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Michelle Williams: On the brink of greatness?

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Michelle Williams Marilyn
Lorenzo Agius

Three weeks ago, I asked you which thirtysomething actor you were most excited to watch during the next decade. Perhaps because I basically slobbered all over Ryan Gosling, who was on the verge of being crowned the unofficial homecoming king at the Toronto Film Festival, the Drive star dominated his peers with more than 60 percent of the vote. But the poll didn’t include the likes of Michael Fassbender or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as several commenters pointed out. It also didn’t include even one actress.

Coincidentally, my favorite actress working today is in the news. And she happens to be 31. Michelle Williams, Gosling’s Blue Valentine costar who next plays the iconic blonde bombshell in November’s My Week With Marilyn, will be honored with the Hollywood Actress Award at the Hollywood Film Festival on Oct. 24. She’s done such interesting, earthy work since playing Jen for six seasons on Dawson’s Creek — from the confused small-town girl in The Station Agent, to the stunned and betrayed wife in Brokeback Mountain; from the desperate dog-owner in Wendy and Lucy, to her most recent role as a 19th-century settler in Meek’s Cutoff. To me, her name is a brand that promises quality original storytelling and an acting integrity that is hard to find.

An actress’ 30s are a different decade than an actor’s, but it’s also the transitional period when the best female thesps establish their bona fides as something more than just The Girl they frequently were cast as in their 20s. Meryl Streep was 32 when she filmed Sophie’s Choice. Ditto for Jessica Lange and Tootsie. Julia Roberts was 32 when she stepped beyond her Sweetheart persona to play Erin Brockovich. Though Streep has proven that an actress can thrive at the box office well into her 60s, there remains the fear that an actress’ career dips drastically once she hits the big 4-0, so her 30s take on an added imperative. This is the window to make the movies she wants made. These will be the roles that best define who she is and how she will be remembered.

So with that in mind, what thirtysomething actresses are you most excited and curious to watch for the next 10 years? You know my vote. Who’s yours?

Read more:

Michelle Williams as Marilyn on ‘Vogue’

Michelle Williams plays Marilyn Monroe: The first image from ‘My Week with Marilyn’

Michelle Williams’ ‘My Week with Marilyn’ to highlight New York Film Festival