Michelle Williams Was 'Obsessed' With Blue Valentine From The First Time She Read The Script

Should you find yourself in the mood for a feel-bad movie, you would do well to give "Blue Valentine" a look. True to its name, Derek Cianfrance's 2010 romantic drama stars Ryan Gosling as Dean Pereira, an easygoing young blue-collar worker who falls for a driven pre-med student named Cindy Heller (Michelle Williams), wooing her with his laid-back charm and ukulele playing. (Okay, it definitely helps that he also looks like Ryan Gosling, I'm not going to lie.) Five years later, however, the two have aged into an unhappy married couple. Dean spends his days chugging back beers in-between painting houses and helping raise their daughter. His lack of ambition and childlike outlook is now a source of tension between him and Cindy, who is actively trying to advance in her career as a nurse.

Williams could certainly relate to Cindy's feelings of being stuck and unfulfilled. She was 21 when she read Cianfrance's script but had to wait six years to make the film while the writer-director gathered the funding he needed (via Backstage). Again, it's not hard to glean why potential investors were wary. Upon its premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, /Film compared "Blue Valentine" to "'(500) Days of Summer' without the funny hipsterish style, instead replaced with depressing drama." The whole thing is a bit like watching a train wreck in slow motion, as the movie jumps back and forth in time between the different stages of Dean and Cindy's relationship. Also, spoiler, but a dog dies. I wasn't kidding when I called this movie "feel-bad."

All ribbing aside, Williams is very good in "Blue Valentine" and her acting Oscar nod was well-earned. Still, had she not been so passionate about it, she might've well left the project before it finally got off the ground.

'It was like a fire inside of myself'

Michelle Williams is expected to land her fifth Oscar nod (and possibly her first win) for her performance in Steven Spielberg's quasi-autobiographical film "The Fabelmans," having previously been nominated for "Brokeback Mountain," "My Week with Marilyn," and "Manchester by the Sea," on top of "Blue Valentine." Speaking to Vanity Fair, Williams recalled just how intensely she felt about the latter's script, and how hard it was for not just her but also for her equally invested collaborators to wait until they could film it:

"I really hungered for this one, 'Blue Valentine.' There was a time in my life where just everything was 'Blue Valentine.' I had read the script and I was totally obsessed with it. And it was like a fire inside of myself. And everything that I saw, everything that I listened to, it was all just sort of like through this lens of 'Blue Valentine.' And then we just hung onto it for a really long time. I hung onto it, Ryan [Gosling] hung onto it, Derek [Cianfrance] hung onto it. And then finally we actually got to make it. And it had been living inside of all of us."

It's also worth remembering just how much things changed for Williams career-wise while she waited. Lest we forget, she was still on "Dawson's Creek" when Cianfrance sent her his script — yes, it really took that long for "Blue Valentine" to happen. Back then, outside of her TV work, Williams was better known for her roles in '90s films like "Lassie," "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later," and "Dick," what with her first big indie movie, "But I'm a Cheerleader," having initially fared poorly at the box office before rightly being reappraised as an LGBTQ+ cult classic years later.

The upside of waiting

The years between early pre-production and filming on "Blue Valentine" coincided with a period in which Michelle Williams set out to really earn her stripes as an adult character actor, tackling roles in convention-defying films like Todd Haynes' experimental Bob Dylan pseudo-biopic "I'm Not There," Kelly Reichardt's melancholic drama "Wendy and Lucy," and Charlie Kaufman's multi-layered tangle of metaphors "Synecdoche, New York." She recalled what it felt like staying busy with other projects while waiting to finally make the one so close to her heart, telling Vanity Fair:

"When I think back about that time when I read the script and in that sort of interim period before we made it, that period in your life where you really know what you wanna be doing, but you aren't doing it and it burns. And that burning is so generative when you can't possess something and you just have to live in desire, that's what I think about when I think about the 'Blue Valentine' years. I was just, like, burning with desire for this expression."

While I've little doubt Williams would have done fine work on "Blue Valentine" had she made it shortly after reading its script for the first time, I also suspect the delay only benefitted her performance. Without question, having to wait so many years afforded Williams, Ryan Gosling, and Derek Cianfrance a wiser and more mature perspective on its story and characters, which naturally informed their approach to such emotionally challenging subject matter. "I think there's a very valid part of me at 21 that was ready to make this movie; it just would've been a very different film," Williams told Backstage. "In the time that lapsed, Derek had two children, I had a child, and so our understanding of that situation deepened."