MAYBE IT’S THE FADING LIGHT, or the rain streaking the windows that face New York harbor, but Michelle Williams hardly resembles the delicate waif evoked by directors, paparazzi, and my predecessors in profiling. Thirty-six years old, two decades into an ever-expanding career, eight years past a public family tragedy, and probably on the cusp of her fourth Oscar nomination, she still has those apple cheeks and that broad, tight smile. But her face is lean, her hair a jagged bleached bob, her laugh a little brassy. Her gaze is more direct than demure, except when she clamps her eyes shut to craft an answer more careful than the one she’d rather give (or ends up giving anyway).
We were supposed to do something fun out here in Red Hook, an arty, isolated knuckle of Brooklyn where she and her 11-year-old daughter, Matilda, have lived for four years. Instead, we’re sheltering in the patio café of a bustling Brooklyn grocery store. Sparrows dart between us, triggering contagious chuckles. “Who let those birds in here?” she asks. “Very hygienic.”
When Williams is filming in and around New York, she calls it “working from home,” but in this case she really is. She lives directly upstairs, in a two-bedroom apartment carved out of a converted warehouse. That’s her Volvo station wagon in the parking lot.
After two magnetic Broadway runs—playing Cabaret’s Sally Bo