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MICHELLE WILLIAMS - MONEY

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MICHELLE WILLIAMS - MONEY

By Louis Jackman

Michelle Williams is so ridiculously likable. Today, promoting her latest role in All the Money in the World— a movie now more famous for its behind-the-scenes action rather than the story itself— is ebullient and charming manner. 

And her response to such accolades is typical of the gorgeous star.

“Yes, I appreciate it and am so grateful. Especially because my daughter gets so excited for me.”

The circumstances surrounding All the Money in the World is a movie in itself.

Shot last year, Williams plays Gail Getty, the mother of John Paul, kidnapped in Italy and held ransom for $17 million. John Paul’s grandfather, oil baron J.Paul Getty, refused to pay, citing the safety of his 14 other grandkids who would be targeted if he met their demands.

The movie was scheduled for a January release, to coincide with award season. And then came the accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Kevin Spacey, who originally played the role of J. Paul Getty one after the other.

The fate of the movie looked bleak. No studio wanted to be associated with the disgraced star. But rather than admit defeat, director Ridley Scott, mere weeks before release, hired Christopher Plummer as a replacement for Getty and assembled all the cast and crew for nine stressful days of reshoots.

The press guffawed at such flagrancy by Scott. But by some stroke of genius, he completed his changes in less than two weeks, erasing Spacey’s performance.

And now, Williams along with Plummer and Scott were nominated for Golden Globes for their astonishing work. 

Forthcoming about her experiences where others may cautiously tread, Michelle is open and caring while discussing the movie’s tremendous journey. She chats about nearly losing the movie and her joy at getting a second chance and why she could never watch Spacey’s performance. 

She waxes lyrically of Scott’s genius filmmaking skills and why the reshoots are a gesture to the bravery of the victims of harassment and abuse. And the star also chats about her optimistic feelings for Hollywood and society after the Weinstein scandal and her hopes for her child’s future. 

Williams lives in Brooklyn with, Matilda, 12, her daughter with the late actor, Heath Ledger.

STRIPLV: So this whole journey is like a movie itself – talk to me about your feelings when you get the call after the accusations had come out about Kevin Spacey, the movie is going to be shelved. And then, salvation! Talk to me about those feelings.

WILLIAMS: To be able to go back and rewrite the story was a gift I could never have dreamt of. It’s about the work, and dedication and passion of so many people and Ridley had the utmost respect for each and everybody who worked on this movie and for the incredible work they produced.  He couldn’t, wouldn’t let any of our efforts disappear and be forgotten, he wanted to change the ending of the story for all of us. And only he could take on a logistical nightmare like this and come out the other side (Laughs). If it weren’t for his bravery and compassion and respect, we would, you and I would not be talking today. The experience working on this was love, and if we weren’t talking today about a movie filled with so much love, that would’ve made me so sad.

STRIPLV: How did you feel when you though the movie would disappear?

WILLIAMS: I was really sad. I was sad for everyone involved and the loss of their work. But I was sad for myself. A job that I was excited about, a huge movie with Ridley Scott, I was getting to work with THE Ridley Scott. You know he is one of the foremost filmmakers where women have been central and focal. He doesn’t see the gender or ethnicity of a character, he sees a story, and he says, “I want to tell it.” Here, he sees the story about a woman, a mother in this horrible situation, trying to find a solution in a man’s world. He saw this story and said, that’s what I want to do next. That to me says not only is he a tremendous director and storyteller but a great, brilliant, fantastic human. There can be a lacking of that on sets, and I’ve been on many (Laughs). So to get that chance to work with him, I was excited and then it was gone. Poof, like that, just gone. I was heartsick, truly. And then, this plan gets hatched, completely unprecedented, never done before. I was so relieved and thankful.

STRIPLV: Did you have to think about it at all?

WILLIAMS: I didn’t need time to consider. This doesn’t happen and to get that miraculous pass, it was glorious. 

STRIPLV: Were you about to start working on something else, were you in the middle of something?

WILLIAMS: It was Thanksgiving, there was a certain amount of timing luck involved, and who cares, it’s just Thanksgiving. Either way, I was there and ready. It didn’t matter to me. I would’ve worked 24 hours, every day; whatever we needed to do, take my salary, I don’t want it. Use the money to do this and finish what we started and we’re all so proud of. I’m really proud. (Laughs)

But this is still only a small gesture, a small act in light of the victims and their bravery to stand up and have their voice heard. Their movements are changing society. They are and will be honored as heroes. What we did with this movie, was merely a gesture to them.

STRIPLV: Was your daughter annoyed at losing you at Thanksgiving?

WILLIAMS: I told her, you know I’ve been a little sad and down the last couple of days. Well, Captain von Trapp (Plummer’s iconic role in The Sound of Music) is coming to save the day. (Laughs) She was disappointed briefly, but she got it and said, “Go, Mom. You have to.” She knew it would make me happy and as she gets older, she wants and understands wanting that happiness for me as much as I want it for her.

STRIPLV: How many days did the reshoots take? It must have been scary stressful.

WILLIAMS: It was nine days. Nine fraught days. (Laughs) No, I’m joking, it was high energy. I don’t like stress, but I feed off stressful environment. And I reshot my scenes with Christopher as Getty, and Ridley was a sniper. He literally got in, knew exactly the shots he wanted and needed. And remarkably, turned the movie around in three days and showed it straight after.

STRIPLV: That is really unbelievable!

WILLIAMS: Yes, it is. And it’s a testament to who he is and the overwhelming respect he has for everyone. For me. I was his equal on set. Like everyone working there, we were all his equal. There is no hierarchy involved. So to ask the crew to come back, miss out on family time over the holidays, had he acted like less than a good, great man, it might have made the reshoots hard to swallow. Someone else who had treated us less than respectful, I might not have been so obliging.

STRIPLV: Was it difficult to get back into the mindset of Gail that quickly?

WILLIAMS: It wasn’t a tricky place to go back to, no. I think my characters all live inside of me in this cerebral, emotional dormant chasm I can call on at any time, and all it takes is a little meditation and clarity, and I’m there. That was my small effort going into this. Production staff had to set about securing locations again; the costume department had to dig out costumes that had been since returned to warehouses in London and Rome. Those who were working on other jobs had to concurrently do both at the same time, bouncing back and forth on flights, doing whatever they could to make this work. That’s the respect and admiration and love we have for our director; everybody stepped up.

STRIPLV: If the accusations had come out and Kevin had remained in the movie, and it was released as scheduled, how would you have felt promoting it? Because with everything you all did, it now feels so celebratory and triumphant.

WILLIAMS: I don’t think I could have watched the movie and promoted it knowing this person was being glorified on the big screen. That wouldn’t have sat right, no, it wouldn’t. 

STRIPLV: How do you feel about this wave of change in Hollywood?

WILLIAMS: I’m excited! I’m armed and ready. For so long, I’ve been saying I didn’t think, or I wasn’t sure if this toxic climate was going to ever go away or remotely change.

STRIPLV: I remember having the same conversation with you last year for Manchester and you saying that.

WILLIAMS: And I don’t think that anymore. I truly believe after these past months, it’s going to change. I think the shift is too seismic for it to be only a phase that gets eclipsed by the next media frenzy. I don’t see that. Look at where we are right now to where we were a year ago. Dare I say; it’s a positive outcome from the election. I think people have become so outraged with this abuse in authority, that’s it’s fanned the flames, and we’re saying, “stop, no more!” We saw that with the Million Women March, we saw that recently in Alabama, people are saying “enough.” This fallout of men of power, the momentum is speeding up, not slowing down and as a mother with a daughter. I’m so excited for her world and how different it will be. I have real faith and optimism in that.

STRIPLV: If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

WILLIAMS: I’m so boring. Boring, dull, dull. (Laughs) I’d give it all away. I don’t want money that I haven’t worked for, worked hard for. What kind of lesson is that for my daughter? No, I’d give it all away.

STRIPLV: But you are fortunate in that you are very comfortable, more comfortable than most as a successful actress where you can spoil and make life very easy for her.

WILLIAMS: I am and in some situations, I can’t. Those are good learning curves for her. And for me. Look, I’m a parent, I love my child, and I love to spoil her when I can, or when I choose. As much as I love the look on her face, it’s also a disservice to her development, so I choose not to. It’s hard, but it’s better for her and who she is. I want her to understand the value of money; I want her to work hard and understand the struggle it takes to sustain. When I was younger, I had no worth for money; I didn’t value for it. I didn’t feel like any of my decisions were related. As I’ve gotten older, that’s changed, and I now value security and independence and freedom. That’s what I want her to take on and appreciate and understand.

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