Hollywood Flashback: Michelle Williams Brought Marilyn Monroe Back to Life in ‘My Week With Marilyn’

Michelle Williams racked up her fifth Oscar nomination this year, for playing Mitzi Fabelman, a version of Steven Spielberg’s mother in his semi-autobiographical The Fabelmans. A decade ago, bringing screen legend Marilyn Monroe to life in My Week With Marilyn earned Williams her third nod.

The 2011 Simon Curtis biopic follows Monroe’s experience in London while making The Prince and the Showgirl with director and co-star Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). THR‘s David Rooney wrote in his review: “Michelle Williams gives a layered performance that goes beyond impersonation…[she] gets us on intimate terms with one of Hollywood’s most enduring and tragic icons…her work alone keeps the movie entertaining.”

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Preparation for the role demanded intense research. “It’s lonely, lonely work,” Williams told THR in November 2011 of studying extensive footage of Monroe but shared how she discovered “Marilyn Monroe was a character she played, like a Groucho Marx or a Charlie Chaplin or something; it was a facade. She was the greatest part she ever played.”

Incidentally, among Williams’ competitors for best actress on March 12 is Ana de Armas, who played Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s much grittier biopic, Blonde. They are the only actresses to be Oscar-nominated for playing Monroe, who herself never received an Academy Award nomination.

tear sheet of THR's original 'My Week With Marilyn' review from 2011
tear sheet of THR's original 'My Week With Marilyn' review from 2011

This story first appeared in a Feb. stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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