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A Spirited Q & A With “Blue Valentine” Actress Michelle Williams

A Spirited Q & A With “Blue Valentine” Actress Michelle Williams (photo)

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As a way of celebrating this year’s nominees for the Spirit Awards in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, we reached out to as many as we could in an effort to better understand what went into their films, what they’ve gotten out of the experience, and where they’ve found their inspiration, both in regards to their work and other works of art that might’ve inspired them from the past year. Their answers will be published on a daily basis throughout February.

“I don’t know what’s in my life that’s current,” Michelle Williams says when asked if she had a favorite piece of art from the past year. She was referring to music mixes that she’s “kind of been living hand to mouth on” of late, and yet it felt all too appropriate a response when it feels like her own gifts as an artist are timeless. There’s no wonder that her triumphant return to the screen began in 2010 as the elusive wife to Leonardo DiCaprio’s bedraggled U.S. marshal in the 1950s-set “Shutter Island” and culminated in a turn as a 1840s frontier woman in the soon-to-be-released and Spirit Award-nominated western “Meek’s Cutoff.” While each of those roles tested her ability to pull any role into the here and now, they drew upon the same vulnerability and emotional precision that makes her performance in the Derek Cianfrance’s contemporary romantic drama “Blue Valentine” such an awesome achievement to behold.

If there was any joy to be taken away from the heartbreak of “Blue Valentine,” it came out of a deep appreciation for the depths Williams and Ryan Gosling were willing to plumb for the sake of an audience. As married couple Cindy and Dean, the two convey the ecstatic highs and crushing lows of a pair that is slowly unraveling after having adulthood, complete with a child and the responsibilities that entails, thrust upon them. Following the film’s premiere at Sundance, Williams admitted to’s Alison Willmore that it was a character that “scared the shit out of me and Derek [Cianfrance, the director] talked me down off the cliff more than once.” That Williams is always willing to walk up to that edge time and again makes her the very definition of what the Spirit Awards is intended to honor and why it is only fitting our month-long fete of this year’s nominees begins with her.

Why did you want to make this film?

Where do I start? I’ve wanted to make this film since I was 22 years old and I’m 30 now, so I’ve found now in those eight years reasons – new reasons, different reasons – to want to make this movie. It changed as I did.

What was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?

I’m trying to think because it’s been so long now. The thing that comes to mind is what I was thinking about during the last film I was making, so I’m going to steal it. It’s Nijinsky’s reply to the question, how did he jump so high? He said, “Well, I go up and I stay a bit.” Something about the simplicity and that effortlessness doesn’t have to be ephemeral, that it can be as concrete of an idea as anything else. That’s moved me.

What was the toughest thing to overcome, whether it was a particular scene or the film as a whole?

Toughest thing to overcome – I hadn’t worked for a year, so I felt rusty and I had to overcome that and quick.

What’s been the most memorable moment while you’ve traveled with the film, either at a festival or otherwise?

Every time I see Ryan and Derek, I just…I miss them and I get happy to see their faces.

What’s your favorite thing about the film that’s been largely uncommented upon?

I think one of my favorite moments in the movie is when Ryan’s interviewing at the moving company and the boss says, “Can you get here early?” He’s like, “Yeah, I can get here early. What time?” And the boss says, “Seven a.m.” – the look on Ryan’s face. Nobody’s mentioned it and I would watch the movie again, and I’ve seen it six times, just so I can have the pleasure of that moment.

What’s been the most gratifying thing for you to come out of this movie personally?

Like I said before, I was hesitant to go back to work. It had been a long time and I didn’t know if there was going to be anything in me and this movie brought me back to life creatively. It made me excited to go to work and it continues to make me excited to go to work because I discovered a new approach.

Have you had a favorite film, book or album from the past year?

A few things come to mind. I’m reading the Patti Smith book “Just Kids” right now. I’m way into that. Also, I read this book called “Poets on Poetry” that I found very moving and very relatable to acting.

“Blue Valentine” is currently open in theaters across the country. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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