Widely regarded as one of the best American actresses of her generation, Williams made her feature debut as a teenager in the 1994 film Lassie and earned more recognition by the late ’90s for her appearance in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The Montana native earned her first Oscar nomination for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee, in which she starred alongside her partner, the late Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight). In the last decade, Williams has since earned three more Oscar nominations for her performances in Blue Valentine (2010), My Week with Marilyn (2011), and Manchester by the Sea (2016). She’s also played Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010), thus earning a larger mainstream following en route to her casting as Anne Weying in Marvel’s Venom, set for a wide theatrical release on October 5. Williams will portray the girlfriend of Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock (aka Venom).
Per Deadline, Williams has been cast to portray Christa McAuliffe in The Challenger, a biopic about the New Hampshire teacher who was selected for the Challenger mission as part of NASA’s Teacher in Space Project. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttler Challenger exploded on live television, just 73 seconds after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing McAuliffe and six others. The Challenger will reportedly examine McAuliffe’s influence as a teacher prior to the NASA mission, along with her impact on American education after the tragedy. In 1985, McAuliffe was one of more than 11,000 applications for NASA’s Teacher in Space Project and had planned to teach lessons aboard the Challenger as the first woman in space. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.
For The Challenger, Williams will team up with director Martin Zandvliet, who recently directed the Jared Leto Netflix film The Outsider, and the script will be written by Jayson Rothwell (Polar). In the independent world of filmmaking and beyond, Williams is known for her naturalistic performances, including her various collaborations with director Kelly Reichardt: Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010), and Certain Women (2016).
While Williams is certainly an actress that thrives alongside big name performers, she’s fully capable of carrying a big budget feature on her own. Given the sensitive subject matter of The Challenger, though, and the focus on McAuliffe, audiences can likely expect a modest supporting cast that will subtly complement the lead performance rather than detract from the primary intent.
We’ll keep you updated on The Challenger as more information becomes available.