Michelle Williams has two movies opening this weekend. The Greatest Showman is a musical in which she plays P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman)’s wife Charity. In All the Money in the World, Williams plays Gail Harris, daughter-in-law of J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer).
The films couldn’t be more different unless maybe one had a Hobbit in it. Williams said Greatest Showman came first, at a time when she needed to recharge.
“The Greatest Showman was a kind of detox for me,” Williams said. “I’d just come off of doing a really difficult play on Broadway for six months and then got offered this job with my old friend Hugh Jackman.”
The Greatest Showman deal just got better and better.
“It shot in Brooklyn, 10 minutes away from where I live,” Williams said. “I was told that I could bring Girl Scout troops every week. I was just like well, yes. Yes. That sounds like just what I need.”
Once The Greatest Showman wrapped, Williams was ready for the demanding role in All the Money in the World. Harris’s son (Charlie Plummer, not related to Christopher) is kidnapped and Getty refuses to pay the ransom.
This was an intense role, even before Williams returned to film new scenes with Christopher Plummer over Thanksgiving. Kevin Spacey played Getty originally.
“This was something very different that required a lot more of me, but I was ready for it, hungry for it, yearning for it after having had that kind of couch time a little with Showman,” Williams said. “I was ready to get back up on my feet and be driven hard again.”
Ridley Scott directed All the Money in the World. Williams described how he would film rehearsals and surprise her in front of the cameras.
“In the middle of rehearsing on film, he would throw an obstacle, a physical obstacle in your way that you couldn’t have anticipated,” Williams said. “You would be dealing with something in real time and always somewhere in the back of my head, some paper airplane would come flying over my head, and my first responsibility is to deal with it as the character.”
Scott’s spontaneity energized Williams performance.
“Somewhere in the back of my head, just a little smile went on in my brain,” she said. “Like, ‘God, what is he going to come up with next?’ It was like being in a play where it’s real, it’s alive, it’s the thing he’s the most interested in capturing, it’s the thing I’m most interested in exploring.”
A lot of those takes made it into the movie.
“So what you see in the movie, a lot was our first take, which has a real kind aliveness to it,” Williams said. “It’s never been done before and it won’t be done again, and things happen, surprises, spontaneity. It was a very exciting workplace and I’m a little lost without it.”
The Greatest Showman are now playing in theaters. All the Money in the World opens Christmas Day.