Michelle Williams on 'After the Wedding' ending, equal pay and reveals she's ready for 'Venom 2': 'I'm in'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Michelle Williams as Alice in 'After the Wedding' (Photo: Julio Macat / © Sony Pictures Classics / courtesy Everett Collection)

You can’t keep a good Symbiote down. With Andy Serkis confirmed to direct, Venom 2 is officially a go over at Sony’s burgeoning Spider-Man multiverse. That means Tom Hardy will continue his brain-eating, lobster tank-bathing ways as everyone’s favorite alien-goo infected journalist/anti-hero, Eddie Brock. While the plot of the sequel to the 2018 hit is still under wraps — along with the question of whether or not Woody Harrelson will make his debut as Carnage, as teased in Venom’s post-credits scene — here’s one thing we can tell you: Michelle Williams will be back in black, too. “I’m in,” she reveals to Yahoo Entertainment during an interview about her latest film, After the Wedding.

It’s worth noting that Williams’s return was far from guaranteed: during interviews at the Sundance Film Festival, where After the Wedding premiered in January, she struck an uncertain note about her future with the franchise. “They have to pay me either way,” she joked to MTV News at the time. And while Hardy struck a deal for Venom 2 in June, the rest of the cast has yet to be officially announced.

Williams and Tom Hardy in 'Venom' (Photo: Frank Masi/© Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

But Sony has clearly decided that Williams — who plays Eddie’s alternately confused and bemused ex, Anne Weying — is too valuable to not have in the mix for a second Venom adventure. And the actress expresses genuine enthusiasm about coming back, especially with Serkis at the helm. “I’m such a fan of Andy’s, and I’m so inspired by what he’s been able to accomplish,” she says. “He’s so gifted in such a specific way, and I’m very excited to learn from him and be around him.”

She’s also excited by the prospect of revisiting, and expanding on, one of the best moments from the original movie — when the alien possesses Anne, spawning She-Venom and setting the table for one memorable Symbiote-on-human smooch.

Williams briefly got to portray She-Venom in 'Venom' (Photo: Sony Pictures/YouTube)

In a hilarious beat that follows the kiss, Anne expresses both shock and awe at her temporary transformation. “I just bit that guy’s head off,” she marvels, before expressing how disappointed she is to be left out of the climactic Symbiote slugfest that’s about to down. And Williams is rooting for Serkis to incorporate She-Venom into the action in the sequel. “I hope I get equal time that way — I can say that!”

Over the past two years, Williams has also been a vocal champion for equal pay in the workplace, using her own experience as a case study. In the fall 2017, she and Mark Wahlberg agreed to last-minute reshoots for the Ridley Scott film, All the Money in the World, after the director replaced Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer. Weeks later USA Today broke the news of a significant pay gap between the two stars: while Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million, Williams received less than $1,000. (Following those reports, Wahlberg donated his reshoot salary to Time’s Up in Williams’s name.) That disclosure brought renewed attention to the gender wage gap that exists across virtually every industry, and Williams continues to press the issue in a variety of venues, from Capitol Hill to the TCA Awards.

Asked whether she’s seen a change in the time that she’s been sharing her story publicly, Williams strikes a hopeful note. “I’ve felt from women coming up to me the impact that it’s had on them in their lives and in their places of employment, because they’ve been able to use this story as an example. It’s a helpful explanation tool because it really highlights the pay gap between the genders. And as I said in my speech on Capitol Hill, if it can happen to me — a privileged white woman in a privileged industry — imagine what’s happening to my sisters of color across other industries. What’s been so incredibly is the bravery of so many other women in so many other industries to talk about the abuses of power they’ve endured. You see the accumulation of it, and then you see the men who are in power staring to have their crowns removed. It encourages other women to think, ‘If there’s vindication for her, maybe there’s vindication for me.’”

Williams as Gwen Verdon in the FX series 'Fosse/Verdon' (Photo: Eric Liebowitz / ©FX / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Williams adds that she’s experienced professional vindication for speaking up in terms of the opportunities that have come her way, like the recent FX series, Fosse/Verdon, which features her Emmy-nominated performance as Broadway legend Gwen Verdon. “[FX] supported me not just with their words, but with their money, which allowed my work to go to another level. The first wigs they got us weren’t any good, so they go us better wigs. They said that they were only going to give me 10 lessons at Juilliard and they wound up giving me 30. I’m ultimately an employee of FX, so anything good that comes out of me goes back to them.”

And she’s also experienced personal vindication in the lessons she’s able to pass along to her teenage daughter, Matilda. “I feel like I’m raising my daughter in a different world from the one I thought I was going to be handing her. I thought I would have to teach her how to take her operations underground and create a network below the [power] structure that you could make yourself safe in. But I’ve definitely seen a change for myself in terms of how the corporate structure views me, and how they think to take care of me.”

Related Video: After The Wedding Trailer

Warning: Spoilers for After the Wedding below.

Not coincidentally, the subject of motherhood happens to be at the center of After the Wedding, an English-language remake of the Oscar-nominated 2006 Danish film directed by Susanne Bier. The original film starred Mads Mikkelsen as the manager of a small orphanage in India who returns home to Denmark and meets the daughter he never knew he had, and the man (Rolf Holger Lassgård) she’s grown up calling “Dad.” For the new version, writer-director Bart Freundlich switched the genders of the main characters: Williams plays the Mikkelsen role opposite Julianne Moore as the non-biological (but no less loving) parent.

Williams and Julianne Moore in 'After the Wedding' (Photo: Julio Macat / © Sony Pictures Classics / courtesy Everett Collection)

That change fundamentally alters the emotional underpinnings of the story in that Williams’s character, Alice, has spent two decades living with the knowledge that she left behind a daughter when she started her life over in India, believing that her then-lover, Oscar (Billy Crudup), had followed through with their arrangement to put the child up for adoption. And the actress is well aware of how differently society at large views absent mothers versus absent fathers. “I did a lot of research and read literature by women who had made the choice that my character makes, and they talk about what their lives are like afterwards — how they feel about themselves and what they carry with them and how affected they are,” the actress says. “Men can always leave and go climb a mountain and be heroes. But women who leave and go climb mountains are [seen as] freaks of nature.”

As Williams notes, Alice didn’t arrive at her decision casually, and the reverberations from the past very much inform her present. “Whether consciously or unconsciously, she’s now taking care of other peoples’ children,” she explains. “This is a woman who has deeply ingrained herself in [another] culture, and is trying to eke out some good in the world against all odds. A woman’s right to choose is something I feel very passionate about, and would never lay a judgment on a woman who decided to see a pregnancy through to a delivery and then realized [leaving] was the best choice she could do. It’s the choice that make the most sense to [Alice], but the rest of her life has been a kind of reaction to that decision. She did a beautiful and heroic thing by bringing a child into the world, but I also think it’s a beautiful and heroic thing to decide it’s not the right time to bring a child into the world. Both of those things are very difficult decisions and carry difficult feelings in the aftermath. And I think you live your life differently no matter what your decision was. That’s what we see with her: she walked away from everything and started over.”

After the Wedding opens in theaters on Aug. 9. Visit Fandango and Atom Tickets for showtime and ticket information. Venom is available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.

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