Lynn Hirschberg: Michelle, you’re in Toronto making a movie called Take This Waltz, with Seth Rogen and directed by Sarah Polley.
Michelle Williams: I spent the day in a chlorinated pool in my bathing suit. On Friday I’m getting naked with a group of women—all ages, shapes, and sizes—in a YMCA locker room. I have the usual self-loathing and body issues, and yet I seem to be naked in a lot of movies. The nudity has to end somewhere [Laughs]. It would be really nice if the pictures did not get posted online. But then maybe that’s a reason to do it: Just get naked, and who cares if it ends up on the Internet.
LH: Do you spend a lot of time online?
MW: I actively stay away from reading about myself. But I am a slave to my computer. I don’t think that’s good—would Tolstoy even have written Anna Karenina if there were an Internet? I hate myself when I e-mail. E-mail is like a dopamine hit—you wait for it and then you get it. I gave up my computer during my last movie, Meek’s Cutoff, which is a period piece about a woman on the Oregon Trail. I took to letter writing. My girlfriends got some great letters. But when it ended I was back on e-mail. I’m an addict.
LH: In Blue Valentine, out December 31, you and Ryan Gosling have an extremely raw and very naked sex scene.
MW: We never rehearsed anything, and those were really dark days. We shot the beginning of our relationship first, and it was fun and alive. Then we did the sex scenes and it was…toxic. Ryan and I had stopped relating to each other as Ryan and Michelle. Those scenes took forever. I had a long drive from set to home each night, and I would roll down all the windows and turn up the music as loud as I could and hang my head out the window like a dog and scream. It was my escape.
LH:Did you get nervous during those scenes?
MW: When I work I’m not nervous. Work is this fabulous free zone. There’s no judgment. My problems arrive when I’m not working. At a photo shoot, for instance, I feel like a sham. I feel like they’re trying to cover up what’s wrong with me. It’s probably not true, but just my dirty mind at work.
LH: During the acclaim and Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain, did you have a difficult time?
MW: I was frozen. You’re supposed to take advantage of a nomination and the offers that come your way, but I said no to everything. I finally said yes to I’m Not There, which was directed by Todd Haynes. I played a character like Edie Sedgwick, the Warhol superstar. She was overt and sexual and confident, and that was different for me. It was a small part, but a big deal for me.