"I didn't work for a year. I needed to gather myself and put my life back together. I had to be dragged back to work, basically, because I finally had my life in some kind of order, and I didn't know what would happen if I introduced work into it. I had forgotten that it was worth it.”
After the torment of losing Heath Ledger, her former fiancé and the father of her child, talented actress Michelle Williams is getting her life back on track – and winning the praise of critics and audiences alike
Who knew that the actress behind Dawson’s Creek’s wild-child Jen would make the leap from teen star to one of the most talented actresses of her generation?
Montana-born Michelle Williams had taken on small roles in Baywatch and Lassie before landing the part of Jen in the hit teen drama, which also saw Katie Holmes become a leading Hollywood starlet. The popular series ended after four years – but she had a very clear vision of where she wanted her career to go next.
“Yes, it was hard getting jobs I wanted [after Dawson’s Creek],” she had admitted. “I was a pop tart. It took patience and baby steps. I did a play in New York that wasn't about being blonde, which led to a role in an HBO thing to a role in a British drama. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said: ‘Gradually, then suddenly’.”
Soon came the film that would change her life both professionally and personally. Brokeback Mountain. Not only did it lead to an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress – but she met Heath Ledger. The pair quickly became a tabloid-friendly A-list couple, living together in New York, getting engaged, and announcing they were expecting their first child. Matilda Rose Ledger arrived on October 28, 2005.
It emerged they had split in September 2007, however – and four months later, tragedy struck. Aged just 28, the Dark Knight star was found dead from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in his New York apartment.
“My heart is broken,” read a statement released by Michelle. “I am the mother of the most tender-hearted, high-spirited, beautiful little girl who is the spitting image of her father. All that I can cling to is his presence inside her that reveals itself every day. His family and I watch Matilda as she whispers to trees, hugs animals, and takes steps two at a time and we know that he is with us still. She will be brought up with the best memories of him.”
Michelle went on to find love again – and had a year-long relationship with director Spike Jonze. “I thought falling in love again was the only thing that was going to save me from the pain [of losing Heath],” she said at the time. “This erroneous idea: It just makes things more complicated.”
Meanwhile, she has thrown herself into her work – most notably, garnering praise and an Oscar nod for her role in romantic drama flick Blue Valentine. “My work has seen me through a lot of situations… I've had something outside of myself to attend to, and it's carried me through. It's been invaluable, and I want to pass on that lesson to my daughter.”
For now, the optimistic star is facing her future as a single mum with positivity. “Very obviously, for me and for Matilda, there's a hole in our life," she has said. “Of course the natural inclination is to want to fill it and make it disappear, but what I've come to recently is that it's impossible. Nothing will fit in that hole because what we want back we can't get, which is this one person. I'm not going to rush anything and scamper around like a mad person and make myself crazy. I'm trying to be respectful of the absence. I'm not trying to fill it up. It is what it is.”