Date of Birth: September 9, 1980
This pouty-lipped Kalispell, Montana native caught the acting bug at age eight while attending a play with her parents. Gaining her first experience at age
nine in community theater productions, the wide-eyed little theater buff was immediately intrigued by the idea of being on stage and she soon started taking
At 10, she moved to San Diego with her parents and younger sister. Continuing with
roles in community theater, she was soon making the trek to Los Angeles for auditions. Her screen debut came in the '94 remake of Lassie when she was a 14-year-old high school freshman. Two years later she became legally emancipated from her parents so she could move to Burbank in pursuit of further acting opportunities. In 1995, her second role, as the younger version of the predatory alien played by Natasha Henstridge in Species, was small but memorable. In A Thousand Acres (1996), she played Michelle Pfeiffer's daughter in a critically successful story about the breakup of a modern American farming family.
However, Williams is perhaps best known for her role as city girl Jennifer Lindley on the television show Dawson's Creek. The teen drama, penned by macabre-minded screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer), was steeped
in controversy even before its first episode aired in January 1998. Starring with James Van Der Beek, Joshua Jackson and Katie Holmes, the show was an instant hit
(becoming the WB's highest rated show) and afforded each of the stars bigger and better offers.
For Williams, it was a chance to star opposite Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween H20 (1998),
the much anticipated sequel to John Carpenter's Halloween. Though the film opened to
poor reviews, it earned a strong box office performance and paved the way for her to star in future films, including 1999's Dick. The film, which looks at the Watergate scandal from the point of view of two teenage girls (played by Williams and Kirsten Dunst), provided Williams with a chance to expand her range beyond the constraints of her Dawson's character. That same year, she starred opposite Natasha Lyonne in
the comedy But I'm A Cheerleader, an independent feature about gay and lesbian
When Dawson's Creek's long run ended in 2003, Williams had more time to concentrate on her film career and she now works steadily in features such as the critically-acclaimed indie film The Station Agent (2003) with Patricia Clarkson and The United States of Leland(2004) starring Kevin Spacey. Filming Brokeback Mountain (2005) was a particularly life-changing experience for Williams; she fell in love with Heath Ledger, who played her husband in the film, and afterwards they had a child together. As well, she received her first Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Unfortunately for their child, the relationship did not last and Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose in 2008.
In 2011, she received her second Golden Globe and Academy award nominations, this time for Blue Valentine (2010). Although she didn't win, she did pick up a San Francisco Film Critics Circle as Best Actress for her work in the movie. Her next film, Take This Waltz (2011) earned her a Genie Award nomination for Best Actress. She won an award in the same category from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. In 2012, Michelle won her first Golden Globe for her work in My Week with Marilyn (2011), as well as picking up her third Academy Award nomination plus a BAFTA nomination.
Williams is currently said to be dating actor Jason Segel.