In preparing to play Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Williams pored over research, watching the tragic icon’s cinematic oeuvre and sifting through a stack of biographies.
Williams’ latest role as Glinda the Good Witch in Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz,” however, required far less prep work, the actress said. For starters, she was much more familiar with the source material.
“I’ve already watched the ‘Wizard of Oz’ a lot, because it’s one of my daughter’s favorites,” Williams said during a recent trip to Los Angeles to discuss “My Week With Marilyn,” which opens here Wednesday. “But Sam didn’t want to be bound to Glinda of old, anyway. He wanted a fresh take on it.”
Raimi’s “Oz: The Great & Powerful” centers on a Kansas con man (James Franco) who seeks fame and fortune in Oz. That plan is quickly derailed when he arrives in the mysterious land and encounters three witches (Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis).
Williams said she was attracted to playing an earlier incarnation of Glinda, one who is still discovering the true extent of her powers.
“In the ‘Wizard of Oz’ film we all know and love, she’s omniscient and doesn’t have a lot of human qualities,” the 31-year-old explained. “She’s not fully realized in that way -- she’s not a dimensional person. That’s where she ends up, and my Glinda is where she’s starting out.”
Williams has been juggling her promotional responsibilities for “Marilyn” while shooting “Oz." At the AFI Fest premiere of the film in Hollywood this month, she walked the red carpet and then hopped back on a plane to “Oz’s” Michigan set for a 4 a.m. call time.
She said the sleep deprivation has been worth it, in part because of the positive effect the shooting experience had had on 6-year-old daughter Matilda, Williams' child with the late Heath Ledger.
“It’s been such an amazing move for us as a family. It’s a really happy place to go to work and a happy place for her to come visit,” Williams said. “Often -- the ‘Marilyn’ sets and the ‘Blue Valentine’ sets -- they aren’t really ideal places for children. She can still come visit, but she can’t really get comfortable and hang out for a while. This really integrates my life and my work in a great way."
For more with Williams, check out Sunday's Calendar section, where a profile of the actress will appear.
Photo: Michelle Williams, left, and Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” Credit: Associated Press / Warner Bros. Home Entertainment