For an actress so committed to gritty, punishing roles, it's a surprise to learn that Michelle WIlliams began her acting career on the sandy set of David Hasslehoff's frivolous lifeguard show.
The then 13-year-old Williams played Bridget Bowers, a young girl who catches the eye of Hobie Buchanan (Jeremy Jackson). It turns out that having The Hoff as your father is useful when it comes to scoring invites to parties.
Blond Bombshell? She looks at home on the beach.
This 90s retelling of the classic dog story focuses on Matt Turner, a big-city kid who's initially disgruntled at having to move to a farm, though getting the eponymous long-haired collie as a new best mate softens the blow somewhat.
Matt still struggles to fit in, though he does catch the eye of Williams' April Porter. It turns out that having a wonderdog is useful when it comes to scoring chicks.
Blonde Bombshell? She's in danger of being typecast as the tween object of affection.
Step by Step (1994)
Williams continued to build her acting rep with a string of steady appearances on TV. She appearing in only one episode of this cloying sitcom starring Dallas smoothie Patrick Duffy.
The show revolved around a family of step-siblings, and Williams turned up as a punky teen who tempts geeky Mark to rebel a little.
Blonde Bombshell? She was still attracting the attention of teenage boys, but at least she got to reveal just a little edge here.
Home Improvement (1995)
Williams next appeared in another sitcom, Raising Caines with Judge Freakin' Reinhold, but the programme never even got aired in the US. She continued to earn her stripes on TV, in Tim Allen's mysteriously popular Home Improvement .
She showed up in Season Four episode 'Wilson's Girlfriend', thankfully not playing Wilson's girlfriend, but Jessica, a girl that Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan) is set to date.
Blonde Bombshell? Her golden locks and cheerleader looks seemed to guarantee that she'd be cast as an irritating teenage boy's lust object. You've got to hand it to her for retaining her dignity.
Williams' biggest role to date came in the 'erotic' sci-fi movie. Even if the final film isn't remembered as a knockout, it at least brought the young actress to a wider audience, and allowed her to work alongside such slumming-it luminaries as Sir Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina.
She's only in the film for the first 10 minutes or so, as she plays the young Sil, an alien-human hybrid who grows up (extremely quickly) to become Natasha Henstridge's man-hungry monster.
Blonde Bombshell? At least she gets to show she scared, vulnerable, and a little of the action stuff when it comes to the lab breakout.
Every budding star needs a genuine 'WTF?' entry on their CV, and Timemaster fits the bill for Williams, who seems to be saddled with the teen arm-candy role again.
This children's sci-fi followed the adventures of a young oddball named Jesse who travels across time and space to take on parallel reality villains. Also starring Pat 'Mr Miyagi' Morita, this obscurity has all but vanished from the face of the Earth.
Blonde Bombshell? In the words of Patrick Batemen: "Not quite blonde, are we? More of a dirty blonde."
My Son Is Innocent (1996)
This TV movie gave Williams her first real exposure to feature-length drama, even if it is considerably more melodramatic than some of her later successes.
Nick Stahl ( Terminator 3 , In The Bedroom ) stars as a socially-awkward kid accused of breaking into a woman's house and attacking her. As the title suggests, his mother is one of the few to protest his innocence.
Blonde Bombshell? She's not really given enough screentime to really register.
Killing Mr. Griffin (1997)
This TV movie was another opportunity for Williams to demonstrate a little edge. This novel adaptation focuses on a bunch of cool kids who decide to kidnap their overly-strict English teacher.
They enlist the help of nerdy Susan (Amy Jo Johnson) to complete their plan. Williams is quite far down the billing as part of Susan's geek clique. Not to be confused with Teaching Mrs Tingle , starring fellow Dawson's Creek alumni Katie Holmes.
Blonde Bombshell? She goes full-on dowdy for the role (ie. she slips on a pair of specs).
A Thousand Acres (1997)
This depressing drama is adapted from Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which relocates King Lear to an Iowa farm and tells the story from the perspective of the two older daughters.
You can see the appeal for Williams, as she gets her name on a cast list that includes Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer and Colin Firth. There are some commendable performances, but it gets bogged down with the relentless 'issues'.
Blonde Bombshell? She doesn't look out of place as Pfeiffer's offspring (and Mad Men 's Elisabeth Moss plays her sister).
Dawson's Creek (1998-2003)
Williams' breakout proper came playing Jen Lindley in the long-running teen drama from Kevin Williamson, and she's since had the most respectable movie career of the central quartet, with Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson following behind.
Jen was initially the New York wildchild who amateur filmmaker Dawson fell for before discovering his true feeling for Joey (Holmes). Jen went through the wringer over the course of the six seasons, but she did get to date several noteworthy hunks including Michael Pitt, Chad Michael Murray and Jensen Ackles.
Blonde Bombshell? She was for most of the show's run.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
At the same time as Dawson's Creek launched, Williams scored a role in this above-average slasher revival. Riding on the success of Scream , Creek creator Kevin Williamson was behind the cinematic return of Michael Myers.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is living under a new identity with son John (Josh Hartnett). Williams' plays John's girlfriend Molly, who gets swept up in the murderous hysteria on All Hallows Eve. She survived, but thankfully avoided the ignominy of appearing in Halloween: Resurrection .
Blonde Bombshell? She proves herself to be an admirable scream queen here, in one of her rare genre outings.
Although Williams' career is now characterised by tough, raw roles, she has dabbled in comedy. She starred alongside Kirsten Dunst in this political chortler, which sees the pair inadvertently uncover the Watergate scandal.
That Will Ferrell plays journalist Bob Woodward (of All the President's Men fame) should give you the measure of this one, although the silliness comes with more smarts than most teen comedies, and there's a certain charm to watching the retold events unfold.
Blonde Bombshell? Ditzily so.
But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)
Avoiding the American Pie school of gross-out teen-coms, Williams continued to connect with offbeat fare. Cheerleader stars Natasha Lyonne as Megan, a girl sent to a camp to cure her presumed lesbianism.
The movie wears its John Waters influence on its sleeve, but it fails to fully make the most of its interesting premise. Williams' role, as a fellow cheerleading student at the camp, is relatively brief.
Blond Bombshell? Well, the film's all about subverting gender expectations. So no, then.
If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
This TV movie sequel looks at three different lesbian relationships that occur in the same house during different eras. Like its predecessor, the HBO production packs a surprisingly starry cast for a telly movie.
Williams' 70s-set segment sees her playing a feminist lesbian who starts a relationship with Chloe Sevigny, but becomes troubled by their perceived gender roles. It's not barrel of laughs, but the final segment, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone, lightens things up a little.
Blonde Bombshell? Defiantly not.
Me Without You (2001)
This movie charts the friendship of Holly (Williams) and Marina (Anna Friel) over the years. Holly is the mousy nerd to Marina's party girl, and inevitably tensions arise, particularly when it comes to sleeping with each other's boyfriends, brothers, etc.
Williams demonstrates a decent grasp of the British accent, but there's not much to recommend here. The pair are so antagonistic, it's hard to believe there could be a shred of genuine friendship between them.
Blonde Bombshell? No, she obviously had to go brunette to play the dowdy, bookish one.
Prozac Nation (2001)
Christina Ricci took the lead role in this adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's autobiography. Wurtzel is a successful teen with a Harvard scholarship, but she finds her depression worsening while she's at uni.
Williams plays Wurtzel's friend and roommate Ruby, who's better equipped to deal with their party-hard lifestyle. Like the book that inspired it, its depiction of drugs has been divisive, and many found the protagonist distractingly irritating.
Blonde Bombshell? This continued Williams' streak of playing against type with her looks.
The United States of Leland (2003)
Leland is remarkable for an early, impressive central performance from Williams' future Blue Valentine co-star Ryan Gosling, but sadly little else registers.
The plot initially intrigues, as Leland (Gosling) stabs an autistic boy to death, seemingly without motive. The film fails to sustain interest though, and Williams role, as the victim's distraught sister, doesn't offer much of a challenge to the talented actress.
Blonde Bombshell? Yes in terms of hair colour, no in terms of screen impact.
The Station Agent (2003)
Williams had been making a commendable effort to shake off the Creek stigma with her career choices: if her recent movies weren't always great, they at least showed that she never chose the easy option.
With The Station Agent however, she finally found the material to match her talent. Front and centre is laconic dwarf Fin (Peter Dinklage). He lives in an abandoned train depot, and tentatively begins a friendship/romance with librarian Emily, gracefully and precisely played by Williams.
Blonde Bombshell? Williams is charming, but not in an obvious, in-yer-face way (much like the movie itself).
A Hole in One (2004)
This little-seen 50s-set movie sees Williams tackling another hot potato topic: trans-orbital lobotomies! Dismayed to discover that her World War II veteran brother is suffering from shell shock, and unable to attain any sort of solace from her boyfriend, Anna becomes obsessed with curing herself via the procedure.
Williams get to contrast vintage era glamour with a troubled mindset, but the themes here never cohere, largely due to the fact the unconventional humour often falls flat.
Blonde Bombshell? With bright red lipstick to boot...
Imaginary Heroes (2004)
Williams continued to gravitate towards strenuous material. In this drama she plays a member of a family reeling from the death of their elder teenage son.
As the family's college-attending daughter Penny, Williams has the unenviable task of attempting to patch up the ever-growing rift between her parents (Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels).
Blonde Bombshell? Themes this weighty call for a slightly iffy 'do...
Land of Plenty (2004)
Wim Wenders directed Williams in this post 9/11 drama. Her character has developed anti-war beliefs following her Palestinian travels, which put her at odds with her staunchly anti-Arab uncle, a Vietnam vet who's taken it upon himself to spy on anyone he deems suspicious-looking.
The situation is broadly drawn, but Williams is a key weapon in Wenders' arsenal when it comes to keeping the story engaging.
Blonde Bombshell? She's sporting a straggly brown bob: this is no time to get glammed up!
The Baxter (2005)
It's a shame that hardly anyone saw Mark Showater's indie comedy, as it was a rare recent opportunity for Williams to play it light. Showater stars as Elliot Sherman, a guy who considers himself a 'baxter' (the supporting nice guy usually passed over for the leading hunk in a romcom).
Showater can be slightly annoying, so it's to his benefit that he packs the movie with strong supporting players like Williams (as the frumpy true love), Elizabeth Banks and Justin Theroux.
Blonde Bombshell? No, it's Banks who plays the typical romcom 'lead' here.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Williams earned her first Oscar nomination for her role as Alma del Mar, the unwanted wife of Ennis (Heath Ledger). It's an astonishing turn from Williams, who makes a potentially-thankless role extremely sympathetic.
She's quietly coerced into the convenient marriage, before being forced to live with the uncomfortable knowledge of her husband's true love. Her chin-down meekness belies the effort she puts into holding the crumbling family together.
Blonde Bombshell? Hardly.
The Hawk Is Dying (2006)
Williams retimed with Creek co-star Michael Pitt for this frankly bizarre drama. Paul Giamatti essays another asocial weirdo in George, a man who attempts to find meaning and value in his life by capturing and training a wild red-tailed hawk.
His nephew Fred (Pitt) helps him with the task, and his death leaves George distraught. Williams plays another dolefully quirksome kindred spirit type, as Fred's girlfriend, and the only person to understand George's growing obsession.
Blonde Bombshell? By this point she was becoming better known for dark indie edge than her blonde, preppy good looks.
The Hottest State (2006)
Actor Ethan Hawke wrote and directed this movie, based on his novel of the same name. There are plenty of autobiographical details in the movie (the central character is a young actor from Texas) so there is a tendency towards naval-gazing.
It's largely down to the talented cast that Hawke assembles (including himself) that this stays extremely likeable. Williams' alluring Samantha is a charming and welcome spike in the angsty proceedings.
Blonde Bombshell? Yes!
I'm Not There (2007)
Williams starred with then-partner Heath Ledger again in Todd Haynes' innovative Bob Dylan biography. Cate Blanchett memorable played electric-era Dylan, and Williams skips through this segment as Coco Rivington (modelled on Edie Sedgwick, Warhol muse and subject of Factory Girl ).
The storytelling technique isn't nearly as distracting as you'd expect, not least because Haynes bagged such remarkable performers to play the different facets of Dylan's persona.
Blonde Bombshell? Yes, and she wears the 60s garb well, proving there's not many decades that don't suit her.
The first of a double bill of Ewan McGregor team-ups, neither of which are recommendable. Williams is superb as 'young mother' here though. Once again adopting an impeccable Brit accent, she's worth the admission alone.
An intriguing premise (her husband and son are killed in a terrorist attack) isn't sustained across the running time, mostly because Williams nameless protagonist is the only fully-formed character here.
Blonde Bombshell? Yes, but that tag's hardly appropriate here, is it?
Worth watching only for the 'What were they thinking?' value: it's impossible to fathom why Williams, McGregor and Hugh Jackman signed up for this third-rate guff.
Jackman's high-rolling lawyer invites McGregor's dorky auditor into an exclusive sex club, before trying to force him into a large-scale theft. Williams is wasted as club-member who McGregor falls for, but she may not be all she seems (dun dun DUH!). Consistently embarrassing.
Blonde Bombshell? There's no denying that, it's just a shame there's no spark.
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
This 'One Woman and her Dog' drama was directed by Kelly Reichardt (who's also behind Meek's Cutoff ). Williams is Wendy, a young woman heading to Alaska, who loses her dog Lucy en route in Oregon.
Williams is absolutely heartbreaking in another punishing role, and the slow-moving movie is bolstered by Reichardt's eye for detail. There's no denying it's an acquired taste though.
Blonde Bombshell? The polar opposite: Williams totally disappears into the withdrawn, taciturn character.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
When Williams does do a comedy, you know it's not going to be of the gross-out variety. Charlie Kaufman's rich, archly funny meta-comedy sees cripplingly-neurotic genius theatre director Caden Cotard attempt to stage his life story in an impossibly ambitious play.
Williams plays an actress with whom Cotard has a relationship, and she continues to be involved in the play, as a character and an actress, after the affair comes to an end. It's an astonishing idea, executed immaculately.
Blonde Bombshell? She's a blonde actress, but this is anything but conventional.
This is another punishing drama for Williams, although it makes a refreshing change to see her playing a character as driven as a workaholic surgeon.
Gael Garcia Bernal is her husband: he's made a ton of dosh through his gaming website, and he's heading on a business trip to Thailand. The couple's live-in Filipina nanny provides the counterpoint to the detached pair in this depressing story of problematic family values.
Blonde Bombshell? Scrubs aren't glamourised here like they are in TV soaps.
Blue Valentine (2009)
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are seemingly a perfect match. Both simmer with a naturalistic screen intensity in Derek Cianfrance's dark antidote to (500) Days of Summer .
Skipping between the couple's present state of animosity and their happier courtship, Blue Valentine certainly isn't a movie that should be avoided just because it's utterly crushing. The entire film rests upon the two stars, who prove themselves to be among the finest talents of their generation.
Blonde Bombshell? Williams and Gosling are certainly explosive.
Shutter Island (2010)
Williams has a significant supporting role in Scorsese's mindfuck of a thriller, as the dead wife haranguing the dreams of US marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio).
She's suitably haunted in the role, ensuring that her presence is felt throughout the entire movie, and her final scenes have a disturbing impact that promises to totally subvert your experience the movie when you watch it again. Which you will.
Blonde Bombshell? She's all kinds of compelling here...
Meek's Cutoff (2010)
Williams is back in cinemas this week in Meek's Cutoff , a light-hearted romance in which her kooky, self-conscious cupcake vendor falls for… You weren't fooled for a second there, were you?
Never one to take the easy option, Williams reteams with Kelly Reichardt for this powerful, lyrical, Old West drama, about three travelling couples who become lost in the Oregon wilderness.
Blonde Bombshell? Hardly, but Williams will be giving her approximation of the ultimate icon in the forthcoming My Week with Marilyn .