Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger’s relationship was short-lived, but filled with absolute infatuation for one another before his struggles with drug abuse that led to his tragic passing in 2008.
The two met while filming the 2005 film, Brokeback Mountain. Their co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal, would be the first to tell you how quickly they fell for each other.
“I remember being in rehearsal, and the two of them had googly eyes with each other,” he previously said.
The film’s director, Diana Ossana, talked to Out Magazine in 2015 in honor of the film’s 10-year anniversary and opened up about an incident that occurred on set that showed just how much the two cared for one another.
“She’d twisted her knee, and we had to call someone to take her to the hospital,” Ossana recalled. “Heath was not about to let her go alone, and as he was getting into the vehicle with her he was smoothing her hair back.
“I remember him looking at her, and she looking up at him with these wide eyes,” she added. “She was almost startled by the attention he was giving her, but you could see it every day from thereon. For him it was truly love at first sight. He was so taken with her.”
They began dating sometime either during production or shortly after. Although they never married, they welcomed their daughter, Matilda, in 2005.
“I met my husband there, the seed of my daughter was born there,” Williams told People in 2005, referencing how much being a part of Brokeback Mountain meant to her. “It’s just really, really powerful… Heath and I were just talking about this the other night that if it hadn’t been there we would have met some other way, some other way. It was going to happen.”
They continued to date for only two more years, eventually splitting late in 2007 because of Ledger’s drug addictions. It was this same addiction that eventually led to Heath’s accidental overdose in January of 2008.
Following his death, Michelle faced overwhelming paparazzi attention, to the point where she was forced to move from her New York City home with her daughter, and relocate to a remote residence in upstate New York.
“To have that kind of attention in such an aggressive way, around you and your child, when so much of it is coming from what truly is tragedy for a family … it’s a kind of violence,” Williams’ friend, Daphne Javitch, told Vanity Fair in 2018.
“It was unmanageable to be stalked like that, every moment of the day. So I left, in a desire to create a sane home environment,” Michelle added.
Adjusting to the new lifestyle and trying to cope with the death of her two-year-old daughter’s father, Michelle relied heavily on the support of her close friends, including her longtime friend and fellow actor, Jeremy Strong.
Strong moved in with Michelle and Matilda following Heath’s death. Last year, Williams talked to Variety about his impact on Matilda and the relationship they built, considering she was forced to grow up without her father – or even a memory of his presence.
“Jeremy was serious enough to hold the weight of a child’s broken heart and sensitive enough to understand how to approach her through play and games and silliness,” Williams said, adding, “she grew up with her ‘Jeremy’ and we were changed by his ability to play as though his life depended upon it, because hers did.”
Michelle is now married to Hamilton alum, Thomas Kail, who she both married and welcomed their son, Hart, in 2020.