"It means so much more to me than a movie..."

Michelle Williams talks about fame, Oscar reticence and finding love on Brokeback Mountain

How accustomed are you to the attention you’re getting from Brokeback Mountain?
I love acting but it’s really hard for me because I’m pretty shy and I have a really hard time with things like this. Speaking to a lot of people doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s gotten easier as everything does with time and I feel better about myself, more confident about the way I go out in the world. I love acting so much that I find a way to live with the attention.

How did you get involved with the project?
I made Land Of Plenty with Wim Wenders and I think Wim and Ang are friends, sort of compatriots. They’re both outsider directors commenting on America and I think that Ang knew I’d worked with Wim. The fact that I’d just come from working with a director like Wim gave me a little bit of confidence in meeting Ang and talking to him about this role. I felt good coming off that and I think that translated into meeting Ang and working with him.

You’re a country girl at heart. How helpful was that in getting into character?
Ang talked a lot about that in the beginning. When I first met him he was curious about the fact that I had grown up in this landscape and it was so much a part of me. We talked about how the landscape relates to the people, about the flatness in the plains, the jagged edge of the mountains and how the people incorporate that – how all of that could be compared to the people and their personalities. The first place that I flew into for the movie was a town called Billings in Montana, which is where my father is from and my grandparents lived all their lives. So it was really emotional for me to be tracing the streets, walking down these places where my dad walked as a little boy, where my grandfather worked the coal mines and where I found arrowheads as a kid. It all feels like a life that I barely left behind. It’s very close to my heart.

You and Heath met and fell in love while making the film…
I fell in love and honestly, Heath and I were so supportive of each other outside of filming. I remember being so exhausted at the end of the day so just sitting over a dinner table from him and taking it easy together after the days and nights were over helped so much. It’s strange to watch the film now because it means so much more to me than just a movie – I met my boyfriend there, the seed of my child was born there… It’s really, really powerful. If Heath and I hadn’t got together then, it would have happened some other way.

How was it working with Ang Lee?
I would say it was a really gentle, empathic experience. He’s a man of few words but what I remember most is him holding my hand and looking into my eyes. There wasn’t so much of a verbal communication after filming started to be honest. Beforehand there were a lot of discussions and intellectual stuff but that stopped when we were filming. It was just a really warm environment.

What are the differences when you’re working with someone you’re so close to?
It’s different because you protect each other and you protect the environment. Heath does that anyway. I can remember one scene and it was taking all day, set-ups from so many angles, and he’s able to be an actor in the scene and a guardian of the work that was going on. I would say that relates to him as a husband and a father too; he’s incredibly protective.

How much is your professional life going to change now you’re a mother?
I think it will change profoundly because I’ve been able to work as much as I wanted in whatever opportunity presented itself. I’ve just been able to be selfish for my whole professional life – and now it’s not about me at all, so it’s going to be curious. I don’t know how long motherhood will keep me away from work or what work there will be when I get back but it’ll be a dramatic change for me.