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Michelle Williams is a Survivor

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Dec. 8 2008, Published 8:21 a.m. ET

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With the first anniversary of Heath Ledger's death coming up next month, his ex-fiance Michelle Williams admits she's still trying to make sense of the paparazzi attraction she and their daughter, Matilda, have become.

"I do sometimes wish that I could live with less attention but not being totally ignored by the world," Williams tells Parade.com. "It's very wearing to be a celebrity. I wonder if people are going to follow me or if someone is going to pop out of nowhere with a camera. I get very angry but I'm trying not to let it stop me from living."

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Williams adds, "You're sort of straddling that fine line between being kind and courteous and everything that your mother raised you to be to strangers that come up and refuse to respect your privacy."

In the midst of her grief, Michelle, 28, has continued to challenge herself with film roles. The actress recently won a lead actress nod for the Indie Spirit Awards for her role in Wendy and Lucy. The actress plays Wendy, a woman trying to start a new life with her dog Lucy after bad breaks leave them penniless and alone.

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It's a strong role--but in real life, Michelle says she still struggles to assert herself when it comes to what she wants.

"I still have to put up a fight to get the environment right on the set when I'm acting," she says. "And, as a woman, it's hard to do. You're taught to be polite and quiet so that nobody will think you're difficult. When I worked with Philip Seymour Hoffman on Synecdoche, I saw him get really militant about keeping people out of his eye line. I thought, 'Gosh, I've always felt like that, but I've been too shy to really say anything.' And so when you see somebody else do it and still be respected, it makes you go, 'Well, I'm going to try it too.'"

Michelle, who left her parents house to move to L.A. when she was 15, quit high school to act. She eventually got her big break playing Jen Lindley on the 90's hit Dawson's Creek. While shooting the film Brokeback Mountain, Michelle began dating Heath Ledger and in 2005, the couple had daughter Matilda.

So does she ever wish she'd done it differently?

"I wouldn't trade any of those experiences for anything in the world," she says. "I am who I am because of them. I had a lot of growing up to do and it was slammed into a couple of short years.But the one thing I've always had is an incredible amount of determination. And I guess it's innate within everybody. It's just a survival skill."

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