There's rich, and then there's "so rich economists literally have to invent a special phrase to describe your wealth." Michelle Williams, in case you were wondering, is in that second category.
The actress's estimated net worth officially qualifies her for membership in the UHNWI club. That stands for "ultra high-net-worth individual," and it's an actual designation for a specific level of wealth. Seriously. There's a Wikipedia page about it and everything.
So, how did Michelle Williams amass all that wealth, and what is her net worth today? Let's dive in.
Michelle Williams has been a working actress for 30 years.
The bulk of Williams's earnings, obviously, have come from her work as an actress. While she's more known for starring in smaller indie flicks than major blockbusters (and the huge paychecks that can come with them), she's honestly just been in the game for so long that her three decades worth of paychecks add up.
Williams made her acting debut at age 13 in a 1993 episode of Baywatch and by the time she was 15, she legally emancipated herself from her parents (with their blessing) so she could work more and not be restricted by child labor laws.
The hard work paid off because, just five short years after that Baywatch appearance, Williams was starring on Dawson's Creek with Katie Holmes and spending her breaks from the show building her indie movie cred.
In 2005, Williams's performance in Brokeback Mountain cemented her status as a seriously talented dramatic actor and earned her the first Oscar nomination of her career (she's been nominated four other times since, for her roles in Blue Valentine, My Week with Marilyn, Manchester by the Sea, and, most recently, for The Fabelmans).
Williams isn't afraid to fight for the pay she deserves.
While not much information is available about Williams's salary history, she isn't afraid to be very public about her pay when necessary. In 2018, she became the face of the gender pay gap problem when reports surfaced about the massive pay discrepancies between her and All the Money in the World costar Mark Wahlberg.
Following accusations of sexual assault against then-cast member Kevin Spacey, the film's director, Ridley Scott, made the bold decision to undertake last minute reshoots to remove Spacey's performance from the final version of the movie (he was replaced by Christopher Plummer).
The reshoots cost an additional $10 million and the director initially told USA Today that even with the extra budget, the reshoots were possible because "everyone did it for nothing," citing himself and Williams specifically as having agreed to come back for nothing so there would be money to pay the crew and Plummer, who was doing his work on the film for the first time.
"No, they all came in free. Christopher had to get paid," he explained. "But Michelle, no. Me, no. I wouldn’t do that."
The awkward omission of Wahlberg from the list of "doing it for nothing" team players turned out not to be an oversight at all. Eventually, it came out that the actor earned an additional $1.5 million for the 10-day reshoot while Michelle received an $80 per diem that amounted to less than $1,000. (The discrepancy between the actors' original salaries for the film was also later revealed to be significant—he earned $5 million for his supporting role in the film, while she was paid $625,000 and played a leading role in the movie.)
Williams, who didn't know her costar had negotiated for more money when she agreed to work for essentially a food allowance, rose to meet the moment and became an advocate for pay equality.
"I grew up a lot in that moment, because doing anything in public is very difficult for me," she later told Variety of the experience. "But I felt like I was getting a clear message that I needed to stand up and deliver. I needed to ask myself, can I be a big enough, strong enough and mature enough person to see the opportunity in front of me and take it?"
Williams has reportedly had at least some big paydays.
Williams is best known for her stellar work in indie movies and, while her passion for the projects always shines through, indie movies are smaller productions with smaller budgets and smaller paychecks for their stars. It's hard to find exact numbers for her salary on different films and series over the years, however, at least one estimate of the salaries of the cast of 2018's Venom pegged her payday at $7 million for the project.
Beyond that, Williams's exact payday numbers are incredibly hard to find, but we can predict she likely earned a similar payday for her other big blockbuster film of the last decade, Oz: The Great and Powerful, based on speculation about her costars' salaries for the 2013 film. (James Franco reportedly earned $7 million for his role in the film and Mila Kunis reportedly earned $13 million that year, with $8 million of that speculated to be for her work on Oz).
Williams has invested in real estate.
Like many celebrities, Williams has invested some of the millions she's earned in real estate—specifically in Brooklyn real estate. Most recently, she purchased a $10.8 million townhouse in Brooklyn Heights in 2020 with her husband, Hamilton director Thomas Kail. In 2014, she sold the Boerum Hill townhouse she once shared with her late partner, Heath Ledger, for $8.8 million and she apparently still owns a third Brooklyn home—a more-than-100-year-old house in Prospect Park South that she scooped up for $2.5 million in 2015.
How does Heath Ledger's estate factor into Michelle Williams's net worth?
Even though her salary info is rarely made public, the biggest mystery element in Williams's net worth equation is the estate of Heath Ledger.
Williams and Ledger met on the set of Brokeback Mountain in 2004 and reports suggested they got engaged soon after they started dating. In October 2005, the couple welcomed their daughter, Matilda, but ultimately split in 2007, just a few months before Ledger's tragic death in January 2008.
"Our initial meeting, the circumstances of how we first met, were cosmic or something," Williams told GQ in 2012 of the very fast pace of her relationship with Ledger in the beginning. "Yeah, a lot of things happened at once. It’s a bit like, we had a lot of things to do because we didn’t have a lot of time, or something."
Because Ledger's most recent will at the time of his death had been written two years before Matilda's birth and, therefore, didn't include her, there was speculation that Williams would be forced to engage in a complicated legal battle to assert Matilda's right to inherit her share of the actor's $20 million estate. Thankfully, no such legal headache was necessary because Ledger's parents and sisters (who were named as beneficiaries in his 2003 will) voluntarily signed the entire estate truth over to Matilda, as they believed her father would have wanted.
"There was never any question about the fact that Heath’s estate would go to Matilda," Heath's father, Kim Ledger, told People in September 2008. "Never a question. We are very close to Michelle and Matilda."
While there's no indication that any of the estate went directly to Williams, it's also not clear if any portion of the trust (which Matilda won't have direct access to until she's an adult) has been counted in the leading estimates of Williams's net worth (and without more data about her film salaries, it's impossible to make even a vaguely educated guess, unfortunately).
What Is Michelle Williams's Net Worth?
According to Celebrity Net Worth (whose figure seems to be the guide most other net worth estimates for the actress have deferred to), Michelle Williams has a net worth of $30 million, putting her above the UHNWI threshold and giving her more than enough financial freedom to keep signing on for the low-budget indie masterpieces we love her for.
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