Michelle Williams Covers Vogue as Marilyn Monroe, Talks Heath Ledger

rag and bone campaign
Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue
Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe on the October cover of Vogue

For its October issue, Vogue has fallen for Michelle Williams once again (she fronted the magazine’s October 2009 issue)—though, this time, she is transformed from gamine indie actress into the ultimate blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe.

Sparked by Williams’s title role in the upcoming film My Week with Marilyn, the fashion tome drew on iconic images of the real Marilyn, reimagined by photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Williams perches on the cover in a seashell-pink, bead-encrusted Oscar de la Renta gown.

And naturally, Harry “talk to me, Harry!” Winston provides a girl’s best friend in the shape of diamond drop earrings and a bracelet.

For the accompanying story, Williams conjured up scenes from Monroe’s past photo shoots.

She curls up on a sofa, reading a paperback (in a J.Crew cashmere cardigan and cropped plaid pants), then sprawls on a weightlifting bench in jeans (MiH denim, to be exact).

michelle williams vogue

Photo: Annie Leibovitz/VOGUE

Novel idea: Williams turns the page to recreate an iconic Monroe moment for Vogue.

Channeling the famous Michael Ochs photo of Monroe on a Manhattan rooftop, Williams gazes warily over New York City’s midtown, wearing a Michael Kors beaded halter gown.

Though Williams evokes the icon’s personal struggles, she tells journalist Adam Green that her own dark days are behind her.

michelle williams vogue magazine
Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue
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“I feel like something has changed for me, but it’s a new change,” she reveals. “I have more confidence that I can handle what life brings me…. I feel giddy about it because it’s a complete transformation. It’s like I’ve found my voice.”

Three years after the sudden death of Heath Ledger (her former fiancé and the father of 5-year-old daughter Matilda), Williams describes how that loss shapes her outlook. “It’s changed how I see the world and how I interact on a daily basis,” she explains. “It’s become the lens through which I see life—that it’s all impermanent.”

Now, however, things feel more stable and self-sufficient. “I’m not lonely,” she claims, “and I think that has a lot to do with what’s on my bedside table rather than what’s in my bed.”

While preparing for her role as the screen goddess, the actress physically remade herself, from her short platinum curls to a wiggling walk. She gained weight to capture the curves, but had to supplement with some foam padding, too.

In costume, Williams had a perfectly Marilyn-like effect on the male crew members—and on herself. “For the very first time I glimpsed some idea of the pleasure I could take in that kind of attention; not their pleasure but my pleasure,” she says.

Sounds like someone has tapped her inner bombshell at last.

For a recap of Michelle Williams’s most glamorous gowns, visit Vogue online, and pick up the October issue, on newsstands September 20.