Michelle Williams on Heath Ledger: 'Our life has repaired itself'

Sep 13, 2011 at 4:08 p.m. ET

Michelle Williams embodies Marilyn Monroe for Vogue and her upcoming film, My Week with Marilyn. In the Oct. issue of the fashion mag, the actress talks the business of becoming Marilyn and also gets personal, reflecting on life for her and her daughter Matilda after Heath Ledger's 2008 overdose.

Michelle Williams embraced the beauty and insecurities of Marilyn Monroe for an upcoming project and the Oct. issue of American Vogue; while revealing a new strength she's found within herself in the wake of Heath Ledger's untimely death. Williams opened up about how she was coping with Ledger's death last Dec., but this new interview finds her and their daughter Matilda more grounded.

Marilyn Monroe & Michelle Williams

"Three years ago, it felt like we didn't have anything, and now my life--our life--has kind of repaired itself," Williams explained in the interview, on stands Sept. 20. "It's not a perfectly operating system -- there are holes and dips and electrical storms -- but the basics are intact."

That doesn't mean Ledger's accidental overdose in 2008 hasn't left its mark. "It's changed how I see the world and how I interact on a daily basis," she reflected. "It's changed the parent I am. It's changed the friend I am. It's changed the kind of work that I really want to do. It's become the lens through which I see life -- that it's all impermanent."

"For a really long time, I couldn't stop touching people's faces. I was like, 'Look at you! You move! You're here!' It all just seemed so fleeting, and I wanted to hold on to it."

The Vogue cover story goes into Williams' Brooklyn home, where her daughter with Ledger, Matilda, makes a showing. It's a sweet moment captured by the writer, but Williams generally shields Matilda from the frenetic world of celebrity gossip and paparazzi, where the word "privacy" has no meaning.

"That's what seems the most rotten thing about it to me," said Williams . "And I'm going to do everything in my power to make her feel safe and protected, and to extend her childhood for as long as possible."

WIlliams on Dating

Williams was linked to Spike Jonze and then Japanese-Swedish director, screenwriter and cinematographer Cary Fukunaga last spring, but she tells Vogue she's on the market.

Michelle Williams chanels Marilyn Monroe

"Relationships have always seemed mysterious, and therefore worth exploring," she said. "I'm single, so it's still kind of a mystery-- a worthwhile mystery, one that I want to be on the scent of. I'm not lonely, and I think that has a lot to do with what's on my bedside table rather than what's in my bed."

It's clear from the Vogue interview that Williams has taken a hold of life and come out the other side. Her grief and life experiences seem to have brought her a new sense of self.

"I feel like something has changed for me," she said. "Maybe it has something to do with turning 30. I don't feel as shy or nervous or self-conscious. I have more confidence that I can handle what life brings me. I don't feel scared to have an idea and express it… I feel giddy about it because it's a complete transformation. It's like I've found my voice."

Williams' Week with Marilyn

While Williams has found her voice in the real world, she also recently found the voice of Marilyn Monroe. Williams is playing the iconic starlet in her new movie, My Week with Marilyn, which recounts Miss Norma Jean's experiences in London and the tension between her and costar Sir Laurence Olivier during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.

Michelle Williams chanels Marilyn Monroe

"It was a very moody, needy, desperate, insecure place that I was in playing Marilyn," Williams told Vogue. " Everybody has their own idea of who Marilyn was and what she means to them, but I think that if you go a little bit deeper, you're going to be surprised by what you find there."

Williams did in fact go deeper, devouring anything about Marilyn she could read, watch or listen to, while working with a choreographer to perfect Marilyn's moves.

She also devoured an extra portion or two at the table, in an effort to earn those notorious curves, but that didn't work out so well. "Unfortunately, it went right to my face," she tells the mag. "So at some point it became a question of, 'Do I want my face to look like Marilyn Monroe's or my hips?'"

Williams quit the gorging and went with foam padding for the hips, which had the desired effect. The transformation was complete.

"It felt like being reborn," she said, "It felt like breaking my body and remaking it in her image, learning how she walked and talked and held her head. None of that existed in my physical memory, and I knew I needed as much time as possible to make it part of me."

My Week with Marilyn opens at the New York Film Festival this month. Williams is on to her next project, clocking in at Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful, along with costarsJames Franco, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis -- And she's loving life as Glinda the Good Witch.

"I think I'd forgotten somewhere along the line that work could be fun, and this is really fun," she says. "It's much nicer to exist in the space of a good witch who grants wishes and tries to help people than in the space of a human mess, like pretty much all the characters I play."

William's Vogue cover story hits stands Sept. 20, but you can also catch a preview on the mag's website.

Images: Korman/AP, Annie Leibovitz/Vogue