Oscar nominee Michelle Williams on The Fabelmans: ‘I don’t think awards are anyone’s goal’
Michelle Williams shook her head skeptically. “I feel like I’m dreaming,” she told me, “and someone needs to wake me up. The fact that I’m here talking to you about a Steven Spielberg movie… it’s a miracle.”
the feeling of surprise seems real and perfectly appropriate, because in Fabelman’s house Michelle plays the great director’s mother.
Although lightly fictitious, Fables tells the story of Spielberg’s upbringing, as a rift between his beloved parents forces him to rely more heavily on filming family films as a means of managing his anxiety. In the most revealing scene, young Sammy Fabelman is taken to see his first film, Cecil B DeMille’s 1952 great epic. The biggest show on earth.
While sitting in the auditorium with his parents, Burt (Paul Dano) and Mitzi (Williams), Sammy was overwhelmed by the scene on screen, especially the scene of a speeding locomotive crashing into the carriages. stalling and tossing them up. in the air like a matchbox.
Cinema is just a trick, Burt, an engineer, later told his son, and went on to dryly explain the mechanics of moving pictures. But Mitzi, a concert pianist, has a more imaginative reading, and says movies are like dreams. “Dreams are scary,” Sammy replied, and was so confused at the sight of the Technicolor train crash that he could only banish its power by recreating it at home with a car. toy fire and an 8mm camera. In that moment, a great storyteller was born.
Spielberg had been harboring the idea of making a movie inspired by his childhood for years, but it was only after the deaths of his parents Leah Posner and Arnold Spielberg (in 2017 and 2020 respectively) that he feel comfortable telling their stories — and their lives. I asked Williams, in the name of God what would it be like to play the beloved mother of the great director he was following?
“You know, in some ways, there’s no pressure,” she said. “Paul” [Dano] and I’ve worked together before, and it’s such a great experience to think, oh, you’re in a Steven Spielberg movie, but we just look at each other and say OK, if he chooses them We will trust him. So that allows me to put aside any feelings of unworthiness I might have, and just come and do my job. And what I did before that was a TV show called Fosse/Verdontells about choreographers Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, and their daughter at the studio with us every day.
“So I had the experience of working with someone who was the top authority in the world on who these characters are, and through that process, I dispelled a lot of the energy of emotional anxiety. that sense.”
In the film, Mitzi’s love of music and art greatly influenced her son. And in creating the role, Williams had what she describes as a treasure trove of resources and firsthand information.
“We talked to Steven about it all, and we also talked to his sisters. And because Steven has been given a camera since he was a child, there are a lot of recordings, a lot of good memories that exist on tape, and so if we’re not with Steven, talk to Steven , we were at home watching his parents. There’s a beautiful soundtrack of laughter that someone put together, about his mother’s laughter throughout the years, and to listen to this laughter grow and reach a full experience that you can hear make others laugh because it’s so exhilarating, so contagious it’s irresistible.
“It’s really a bonus to have so much information to use,” she adds, “and it’s something I will always come back to. Everything is centered for me on an iPad, and it’s like a room I can walk into between shots, just to keep her in my eyes, in my ears, and be with her as much as possible. body.”
The Fabelmans are a loving couple devoted to their children, but the dramatic heart of the film is Mitzi’s growing affection for ‘Uncle Benny’ (Seth Rogen), co-worker and friend his father’s body. Spielberg’s parents divorced when he was a teenager; In the film, Sammy accidentally captures evidence of his mother’s infidelity in a family movie of a camping trip.
Williams’ Mitzi is a force of nature, wonderful, impulsive, spontaneous but sometimes disturbing, even unstable. “Honestly, I don’t experience her that way,” Williams said. “I feel she has always been honest about where she stands in every moment: her love for her children is a steady motivator for her and I think she always feels present with them. her, that’s why I think her memory still affects me. Steven.
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“And I think that what in her could be considered instability is really what’s inside of you. We all make this up as we go, this is our first time here, it’s also our last time here, which leads to the feeling: ‘This is my only chance. to make this right’. And that’s what she exposes thoroughly – absolutely nothing to paralyze her senses.
“I often think of this term when we are working: radical vitality. She’s gifted with it, that’s her, and she experiences everything so fully that it’s as if her nerves had no end. It has impacted Steven in his life, in his work, in his family, in the vastness of his life; His creativity and spirit is very much shown in the way this woman lives.
Fabelman’s house is an excellently handled auteur biopic, comparable to films like that of François Truffaut Les 400 coup d’etat, and is one of the best films Spielberg has made. But it must have been an incredibly emotional experience for him to watch his childhood replay before his eyes.
“It’s an emotional place to go to work,” says Williams, “and it feels weird at times because you’re wearing his parents’ clothes, you’re using their style, their speech, and their bodies. You’re standing in his childhood bedroom, so sometimes it feels like you’re haunting someone. I mean you’re a very friendly ghost because they invited you, but that’s just weird.”
She can sympathize with young Spielberg’s early entry into cinema, because she herself was a working actress in her teens. Born in Montana in 1980, she made her screen debut in a 1993 episode of Baywatchand moved to Hollywood on his own to pursue an acting career at the age of 15.
Acting, she said, “was just water that I drank. I don’t know anything different. I really don’t know how I managed to do this, there’s just a bunch of kids doing it, I’m one of them, and then it’s like something went wrong, here we are. I really can’t explain it — it’s the only thing I know how to do, my only trade.”
She’s pretty good at it. Her list of credits includes Mount Brokeback, Green Valentine, Desert island, Wendy and Lucy, My Week With Marilyn, Meek’s Cutoff, The greatest performer and Manchester by the sea. She’s won a Golden Globe and this week she received her fifth Oscar nomination. It was her role in Mitzi that helped her compete for the Best Actress award.
But the award, she said, has nothing to do with it.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I started doing it when I was a kid, and it can bring me in so many ways,” she said. It’s kind of a miracle that things turned out like this and I’m here to talk to you about Spielberg. It shouldn’t happen, for me to go to work every day in a sustainable, safe, fun, healthy way is more than anything I could have dreamed of for myself.
“And as I continue to make films big and small, I don’t think awards are anyone’s goal, I don’t think anyone I’ve worked with goes to work because they have a trophy within reach. eye. You just do what you do because you still love it, and it still delivers something meaningful.”
Everyone knows that actors absolutely do not like to see themselves on screen, but Williams goes further than that. “I don’t watch my work,” she told me with a smile. “The last thing I saw was Wendy and Lucy [her acclaimed 2008 film with indie director and regular collaborator Kelly Reichardt].”
That means she didn’t see Fabelman’s house? “I haven’t. I can imagine when I’m further away from it, I can sit down and watch it. But to be honest, I’m still so attached to the experience of making this movie, I was I spend the time of my life on it, I rewind the moments in my head before going to bed at night.
“I don’t need to be outside the movie, I don’t need to be outside Mitzi. I live for the experience I’ve had with my cinematic family between the action and cutscenes.”
When I assured her that the finished film was extremely good, she laughed. “That’s really all I needed! I don’t make it for me, I make it for you.”
‘The Fabelmans’ is now in theaters on Friday
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/oscar-nominee-michelle-williams-on-the-fabelmans-i-dont-think-awards-are-ever-anybodys-aim-42310703.html Oscar nominee Michelle Williams on The Fabelmans: ‘I don’t think awards are anyone’s goal’