Michelle Ingrid Williams (born September 9, 1980) is an American actress. After starting her career with television guest appearances in the early 1990s, Williams achieved recognition for her role as Jen Lindley on the The WB television teen drama Dawson’s Creek, which she played from 1998 to 2003. Williams graduated to full-length features, including Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Dick (1999), and Prozac Nation (2001).
From the 2000s, Williams appeared primarily in dramatic, independent films for which she has received critical acclaim. One of her career highlights was Brokeback Mountain (2005), which earned Williams a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Academy Awards for her role as the wife of Ennis Del Mar. She followed this with I’m Not There (2007), Synecdoche, New York (2008) and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010). Williams’s performance as a drifter in 2008’s Wendy and Lucy earned her critical praise and her work opposite Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine (2010) garnered her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn (2011), which also garnered her third Academy Award nomination. In 2014 she made her Broadway debut in a revival of Cabaret as Sally Bowles.
Williams was born in Kalispell, Montana, the daughter of Carla Ingrid (née Swenson), and Larry Richard Williams. Her parents are separated, and she has one sister, Paige, and three half-siblings. Her mother is a homemaker, and her father is an author, stock and commodities trader, and two-time Republican candidate for the United States senate. Williams is of Norwegian, and smaller amounts of English, German, Danish, Swiss, Swedish, Scottish, and Welsh descent. As a child, she kept to herself and was self-sufficient; as she has said, “I was really secretive with my parents and I think I sort of continued that… I found that by keeping to myself I got on OK. I don’t know. When Williams was nine, her family moved to San Diego, California. She became interested in acting at an early age when she saw a local production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Williams began dating Australian actor Heath Ledger, her Brokeback Mountain co-star, in 2004 after meeting on the set of their film. In late April 2005 People first reported that Williams and Ledger were expecting a child together. On October 28, 2005, Williams gave birth to their daughter Matilda Rose Ledger.
During Williams and Ledger’s time together, they lived together in Brooklyn, New York. By September 2007, the couple amicably ended their three-year relationship. Of the break-up, People quoted her telling Elle magazine, “I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t imagine any place in the world that was gonna feel good to me.” After Ledger’s death from a combined drug intoxication (CDI) in January 2008, the usually under-the-radar actress and her daughter became an interest of the media and were often followed by paparazzi. As a result, Williams rarely gave interviews until the end of 2009.
On February 1, 2008, in her first public statement after Ledger’s death, Williams expressed her heartbreak and described Ledger’s spirit as surviving in their daughter, who looks like him. Later that month she attended his memorial and funeral services.
In July 2008, seven months after the death of Ledger, Williams began dating director Spike Jonze. They met on the set of Synecdoche, New York, which Williams starred in and Jonze produced. Williams called the timing of their relationship “impossible”, and ended it in September 2009. Williams dated director Cary Fukunaga briefly in 2011. Williams was in a relationship with actor Jason Segel for about a year from 2012 to 2013. In May 2013, it was reported that she was dating artist Dustin Yellin. The two split up in May 2014. In July 2015, it was reported that Williams had begun dating author Jonathan Safran Foer.