Michelle Williams Was In 'Disbelief' When Steven Spielberg Called Her For The Fabelmans

"The Fabelmans" is a semi-autobiographical film by legendary director Steven Spielberg. It's his most personal creation, giving a dramatized account of his childhood love for filmmaking, his family, and how he tried to find truth and understand their problems through a camera lens. It also gives us insight into his family members who either encouraged his talent or looked at it as a hobby. 

Michelle Williams plays Mitzi, the analog for Spielberg's mother Leah Adler, who supported Sammy (the Spielberg analog played by Gabriel LaBelle) and his ambitions, finding her own path along the way. It's a profoundly personal film for Spielberg, who told The Hollywood Reporter in late 2022: 

"My life with my mom and dad taught me a lesson, which I hope this film in a small way imparts. Which is, when does a young person in a family start to see his parents as human beings? In my case, because of what happened between the ages of 7 and 18, I started to appreciate my mom and dad not as parents but as real people."

Knowing his mom as a real person led him to the casting of Michelle Williams. In a video where Williams breaks down her career for Vanity Fair, she spoke about being in disbelief when she got the call asking her to speak to Spielberg and the moment she got the nerve up to ask him if he really wanted her to play his mother, who passed away in 2017.

'I could not allow myself to think that he wanted me to be in one of his movies'

Spielberg's real mother was an artistic person and an "independently fierce spirit," according to his longtime producer Kristie Macosko Krieger (via THR). She was "not a typical parent." Leah was on the "artist" side of the family with Sammy, as opposed to his father heading up the "science" side of things. 

Williams throws herself into roles completely, like she did as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn" or "Blue Valentine," and that her the perfect fit for Leah in Spielberg's mind. Still, Williams couldn't believe the call was happening, according to the Vanity Fair video. She explains: 

"I could not allow myself to think that he wanted me to be in one of his movies. I really thought he just wanted to ask me a question about something that I couldn't even really imagine what because it didn't make any sense. Like, Steven Spielberg wants to talk to me? He knows my name? What's happening?"

It's sometimes hard to see what other people see from the inside of things. Of course, everyone knows Michelle Williams. She's won two Golden Globes, a Primetime Emmy, and was nominated for four Academy Awards and four BAFTA Awards. She's been in acclaimed films like "Brokeback Mountain" and the award-winning miniseries "Fosse/Verdon." She began her career as a teen on the series "Dawson's Creek," where James Van Der Beek's character was inspired by Spielberg himself. She's also very active in theater. Still, when it's you that a filmmaker like Spielberg is talking about, it can be hard to accept as a reality. 

' ... that seems audacious to imagine that he was in fact asking me to play his mother'

The moment Williams began to understand what he was asking, she still couldn't believe it. She explained: 

"So when we were on this Zoom together, and he's talking about his life, and he's talking about his childhood, and then it sort of hits me what's going on. And I can't even believe that I had the nerve to ask him if I understood correctly what I thought he was saying because even that seems audacious to imagine that he was, in fact, asking me to play his mother. And he said, 'Yes, that is, in fact, what I'm asking you to do.' And I just am still shaking my head in disbelief."

It's even more of an honor knowing that before they died, Spielberg's parents encouraged him to make a film about them. Spielberg tells THR, "They were actually nagging me, 'When are you going to tell that story about our family, Steve?' And so this was something they were very enthusiastic about."

The added pressure may have been daunting, but the film has been nominated for a number of awards for the upcoming season, and this week, it won Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes. We'll find out if it's up for any Academy Awards when the nominations are revealed on January 24, 2023.

"The Fabelmans" is currently in theaters.