Michelle Williams' Daughter: Everything She's Said About Motherhood

Michelle Williams and Heath Ledgers' daughter Matilda was born in October 2005

Heath Ledger, nominee Best Actor in a Leading Role for "Brokeback Mountain" and Michelle Williams, nominee Best Actress in a Supporting Role for "Brokeback Mountain" during the The 78th Annual Academy Awards
Photo: Dan MacMedan/WireImage

Michelle Williams couldn't be more proud of her daughter Matilda Rose Ledger, whom she welcomed with the late Heath Ledger.

The former couple first became parents when Matilda, now 17, was born on Oct. 28, 2005, and Heath was immediately enchanted by her. "Matilda is adorable, and beautifully observant and wise," he told InTouch in December 2005. "Michelle and I love her so much. Becoming a father exceeds all my expectations. It's the most remarkable experience I've ever had — it's marvelous."

Heath may have been a first-time father, but he fell into the role effortlessly. His longtime friend Matt Amato said he was "just a natural dad" in April 2017. "I met Matilda three days after she was born and they were just a beautiful painting together," he said.

Michelle and Heath amicably split in September 2007 and a few months later, The Dark Knight star died from an accidental drug overdose on Jan. 22, 2008. Matilda was only 2 years old. The actress has since welcomed two more children with her husband, Thomas Kail — son Hart, born in 2020, and another child, who was born in late 2022.

While Michelle generally believes in "not fighting circumstances" and "accepting where you are," she doesn't feel that way about Matilda having to grow up without her dad. "You know, that's just something that doesn't … I mean, it just won't ever be right," she told Porter magazine in November 2016.

Despite the hardship, Michelle has been dedicated to giving her daughter a life filled with love and support. Here's everything the actress has said about parenting her and Heath Ledger's daughter, Matilda Ledger.

Matilda was born in New York City

Heath and Michelle welcomed Matilda on Oct. 28, 2005, in New York City, where the couple were living at the time.

She has famous godparents

Jake Gyllenhaal, Busy Phillips
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic ; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

The two actors met and fell in love on the set of their 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, so it only made sense that their costar and good friend Jake Gyllenhaal would be Matilda's godfather. Her godmother is Michelle's close friend and Dawson's Creek costar Busy Philipps.

Following the 10-year anniversary of Heath's death, Philipps opened up about her special relationship with both Michelle and Matilda. "I'm hyper protective of [Michelle] and her daughter," she told The Cut in 2018, adding that Michelle is, "my best friend. And like, my family."

Michelle says Matilda is a movie buff

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams
Eric Charbonneau/WireImage

According to Michelle, Matilda shares a major interest with her dad — a passion for film.

"She's starting to understand more and more," Michelle told The New Yorker in 2013 of Matilda's knowledge of her mom's career. "She knows a lot about Glinda the Good Witch, a lot about who that is, what that was. She would go up to people in the park and say, 'My mommy is Glinda the Good Witch in Oz. There's two bad ones and only one good one, and that's my mom.' "

As a teen, Matilda started to develop her love for movies even more. While talking about holiday plans in 2022, Michelle revealed her daughter is crazy about Christmas movies. "We've seen White Christmas so many times," she told Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest during an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan. "Matilda loves those movies so, so much and I'm excited to have her show those to the younger kids."

And when asked who her best audience is during a January 2023 interview with The Guardian, Michelle responded, "I'm sure it's my daughter. She is the person I have spent my adult life with."

Michelle worked hard to give Matilda a relatively normal childhood

Heath Ledger and his girlfriend actress Michelle Williams attend IFP's (Independent Feature Project) 15th Annual Gotham Awards at Chelsea Piers November 30, 2005 in New York City
Evan Agostini/Getty

Despite her famous parents and the death of her dad, Michelle was determined to give Matilda as stable a childhood as possible. In July 2018, she told Vanity Fair about how she juggled her acting career with motherhood.

"She hasn't had her routine disrupted and hasn't missed class," she explained of Matilda, adding that she also leaves her summers open to be able to spend more unstructured time with her kids. "[I'm] less scheduled, less regulated, less hustle, less go go go. I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself."

And when filming conflicted with Matilda's schedule, Michelle was willing to walk away from a project. When Michelle, Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance had a chance to make Blue Valentine in 2009, Michelle was crushed to have to back out because she couldn't be away from her daughter, as she told The Guardian. Determined to make it work, they moved the shoot to be within an hour of her home.

Heath's family can't say enough good things about Michelle's parenting skills. "I think that she provides such a wonderful environment for Matilda to grow up in," Heath's sister told PEOPLE in 2017. "Especially in the sort of industry that she's in."

Matilda will inherit Heath's entire estate

Heath Ledger and actress Michelle Williams arrive at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 13, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California
Kevin Winter/Getty

Two years before passing away, Heath signed a will leaving all of his money and assets to his parents and sisters. Following his death, they immediately clarified that their main focus was Matilda.

"Matilda is an absolute priority and Michelle is an integral part of our family," Heath's father, Kim, told PEOPLE in March 2008. "They will be taken care of and that's how Heath would want it to be." A few months later, the family decided that Matilda will be the sole beneficiary.

"Our family has gifted everything to Matilda," Kim told PEOPLE. "That was the plan from the moment my boy passed away. There was never any question about the fact that Heath's estate would go to Matilda. Never a question. We are very close to Michelle and Matilda."

Matilda has a special relationship with Jeremy Strong

Succession actor Jeremy Strong has a very special relationship with Heath and Michelle's daughter. Strong met The Fabelmans star at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the early 2000s and the pair quickly became friends. When Heath died, Strong was one of the people who showed up in a big way for the grieving mother and daughter.

"There was an emptiness in the house," Michelle later told Variety of the months following Heath's death. "So people moved in." One of those people was Strong, who actually stayed with the duo on and off for three years.

"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," she explained.

"[Matilda] didn't grow up with her father, but 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," she concluded.

Michelle says witnessing Matilda grow into her own is "a glorious miracle"

While speaking with The Guardian, Michelle touched on the impact of the #MeToo movement and how it's helped create a world for young women "that it is safer and more inclined in their direction than it was for me."

She particularly noticed it in the confidence of her younger costars in The Fabelmans. "I did not possess any grace or calm, nor did any of my contemporaries. I was raised in the 80s. Selfhood wasn't put into young women. And now it is," Michelle explained, before noting how the sentiment hits home. "I get to see it in my own daughter and I can't take my eyes off her. It is a glorious miracle to behold that I never thought I would witness in my lifetime."

The actress continued, "I thought I would have to teach my daughter how to subvert herself and crawl underneath the system to keep herself safe. And, instead, the system has exploded and these young people act with compassion, integrity and righteousness."

Matilda has a lot in common with her famous father

In April 2017, Heath's sister Kate Ledger revealed the ways in which Matilda is similar to the actor.

"When [Matilda] picks up her pencil, it reminds me of Heath; when she walks, it reminds me of Heath; when she gets on her skateboard, it reminds me of Heath," she told PEOPLE.

Kate is determined to keep the memory of her brother alive and does so by sharing details about him with her niece. "I tell her about her daddy every time we see each other," she explained. "I tell her little stories of him growing up and how he used to chase me with the cricket bat."

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