What’s even more impressive is that unless you’re an uber-Dafoe fan, there are at least a dozen other films that you haven’t heard of or seen. Dafoe’s starred in heaps of films – over 100 productions. With his decorated resume, you could argue that he’s one of the best in showbiz. Let’s go behind the scenes with this Hollywood actor and get the lowdown about the man behind so many onscreen personas.
For most people, having eight children means a lot of work, but for the Dafoes of Appleton, Wisconsin, child seven was lucky number seven. Willem Dafoe was the seventh child of the eight born to Muriel Isabel (née Sprissler) and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe. Though Dafoe would become a world-class actor, one who’s literally had a hand in almost dozens of productions, he actually comes from a medical background.
His father was a surgeon and his mom was a nurse. The couple worked together. Of his seven siblings, his brother, Donald followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a surgeon and research assistant. Apart from their names, not much is known about Dafoe’s five sisters and two brothers.
Not much is known about Dafoe’s other siblings, except his brother Donald Christian Dafoe. However, what we know about Willem Dafoe, is that his parents came from a medical background and spent many hours on-call. In fact, the couple worked so much that Dafoe didn’t get to see his parents all that much. As every actor knows very well, the show must go on.
And for Dafoe, the show really went on. The actor later mentioned in 2009 that his sisters took over the responsibility of raising him. We have to admit that they did a fine job of running the show while the parents were working because they raised one of Hollywood’s most enigmatic actors.
A Strict Protestant Household
Considering Willem Dafoe’s liberal choice of films, from indie arthouse movies to foreign films and blockbusters, one might expect Dafoe to be raised in a kind of liberal, artsy family. That’s anything but the case. Dafoe’s parents were strict members of the middle class who regularly went to church. We weren’t kidding when we said they were strict.
Fizzy drinks were forbidden. And coffee was only allowed on special occasions. Dafoe relates how after his mom’s book club meetings, he would sneak away with leftover coffee. We’re pretty sure his strict protestant parents gave the controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ” a skip. And it’s best to probably avoid all mention of his film “Antichrist” around them.
Expelled From School
It’s not hard to believe that Willem Dafoe was once expelled from school. Dafoe’s just been cast as the villain one too many times. He gave us the sleazy disturbing Bobby Peru, the scheming vengeful Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, and the bloodthirsty Max Schreck. We’re so used to Dafoe being the bad guy, that it’s not surprising he was expelled from school.
Only the reason for his expulsion has to do with a bit of mooning. He and his classmates were filming a documentary and somehow Dafoe’s bare bottom ended up being recorded. Before the actor could get around to removing the scene, the teacher got hold of the recording. His parents were called into the principal’s office and Dafoe was expelled. The material was considered too explicit in nature.
His First Girlfriend
In an interview with Rosamund Witcher, Willem Dafoe bares it all including naming his first girlfriend. When Dafoe was about 14, he confessed to becoming interested in girls. And like we know him nowadays; Dafoe has always been a one-girl kind of guy. From age 15 to 17, he dated Wendy Witt. The actor also explains that his parents were rather relaxed when it came to dating.
They didn’t want the Dafoe kids to become weird about the birds and bees. Dates were welcome at their home, including having private movie dates in the TV room. Though Witt and Dafoe’s relationship was short-lived, we’re betting she watched a couple of his movies – there’s more than 100 of them after all.
Acting Over Medicine
While it’s no compliment to be called the black sheep of the family, in the case of Willem Dafoe being the black sheep of the Dafoe herd proved to be the reason for his success. Unlike the rest of the Dafoe brood, Dafoe rebelled against a career in medicine. All seven of Dafoe’s siblings followed in their parents’ footsteps and pursued careers in medicine.
Instead, Dafoe stuck his head over the parapet and studied drama.
Of course, this didn’t sit too well with the Dafoe clan. Though Willem Dafoe is a much-loved figure in Hollywood who boasts an impressive repertoire, in his early days, he was very much the rebel/black sheep of the Dafoe brood.
Not Exactly a Trust-Fund Baby
Plenty of Hollywood stars and starlets get a foot in the door thanks to their parents being in the industry. Some parents even pay a lot for acting classes from a young age to make sure that their children get both feet into the door. Dafoe’s father was a surgeon and his mother a nurse, so his family was certainly well-off, but Dafoe was not a trust-fund baby.
When he decided to pursue acting as a career, the silver spoon was taken right out of his mouth. His parents would gladly have financed his studies if he pursued medicine, but Dafoe’s interest was acting. Dafoe was clearly serious about acting as he worked to support himself and even resorted to couch-surfing to make it.
Not Quite a Childhood Dream
There are many actors’ names decorating Hollywood’s Walk of Fame who’ve been actors for as long as anyone can remember. Many actors get into showbiz when they’re children. But this wasn’t the case with Willem Dafoe. He quite by chance became an actor. After graduating, Dafoe decided to study drama at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
Interestingly, Dafoe wasn’t dreaming of Hollywood stars. He simply really hadn’t considered what he wanted to study. However, he was simply drawn by the Arts and took up drama. But after he joined the university’s drama program, it was only a matter of time before he uncovered his passion for acting. The rest, as they say, is history.
One of the most surprising things most people don’t know about this legendary actor is that his name’s not actually Willem. In fact, he was born William James Dafoe. However, for the longest time, William has been called Willem after a childhood friend mispronounced it as “Willem,” the Dutch variant of “William.” By high school, he was virtually known by everyone as Willem.
The young actor only encouraged this because his father had the same name – Dr. William Alfred Dafoe. Later when he took to the stage, Willem Dafoe became his stage name. We have to stay Dafoe certainly managed to pull the wool over our eyes as very few of us know his real name.
“I Went to Mecca”
Well, not Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but the Mecca of acting, meaning New York. Although the British acting scene might not agree, New York City is considered the Mecca of the entertainment world. From a young age, Willem Dafoe was drawn to acting. After graduating high school, he first signed up for the drama program at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
Daring as it sounds, not even two years later, he dropped out and joined Theater X in Milwaukee, one of the oldest experimental theatres. But Milwaukee couldn’t compete with the bright lights of New York City. In 1976, Dafoe left for New York City and arrived at the Mecca of the entertainment world.
Richard Schechner & The Performance Group
New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, a.k.a. Tisch, is one of the leading schools in drama studies. One of the school’s highly decorated professors, Richard Schechner, played a pivotal role in Dafoe’s life. Back in 1967, this experimental professor established The Performance Group whose theater productions were held in an empty SoHo factory. Schencher served as The Performance Group’s first artistic and theater director.
During this time, the experimental director/professor crossed paths with Willem Dafoe whose journey in theater had taken him to the bright lights of New York. It’s clear where Dafoe’s eccentric and unconventional acting comes from as his debut roles were with The Performance Group. While Schencher has since retired, Dafoe’s not calling it quits any time soon.
The Wooster Group
Richard Schencher might have been the creative vision behind The Performance Group, but eight years after its establishment, clearly not everyone was on board with Schencher’s creative vision. Tensions reached such a boiling point that in 1980 Schencher resigned, and The Performance Group was renamed the Wooster Group. Back then, the Wooster Group played a prominent role in launching the careers of many professional actors.
Dafoe, one of the theater’s co-founders, was one such actor. After its original split in 1980, Dafoe joined the Wooster Group in 1982. Even after becoming a celebrated actor, Dafoe still joined Wooster Group productions until 2004. Dafoe’s not only one of the most versatile actors but also one of the most loyal.
Love Is in the Air
Willem Dafoe’s acting career wasn’t the only thing to take off after joining The Wooster Group – his love life blossomed too. After joining the avant-garde theater, The Wooster Group, romance soon blossomed between him and one of the other founders, Elizabeth LeCompte. While LeCompte may not be a household name, in the New York theater scene, she’s made a name for herself.
Currently, she’s the director of The Wooster Group ensemble. Back in 1977, she and Dafoe started dating. Though the pair never married, the two were in it for the long run. The couple welcomed their son, Jack, into the world in 1982. Sadly, love was no longer in the air 27 years later; Dafoe and LeCompte finally called it quits in 2004.
Three’s a Crowd
Romance may have blossomed between Dafoe and Elizabeth LeCompte, but there certainly was one person who wasn’t over the moon – Spalding Gray. In fact, Mr. Gray was probably experiencing the worst kind of sour grapes as LeCompte and Gray had been an item before she hitched up with Dafoe. Gray, another member of The Wooster Group, is a successful performance artist and playwright who’s best known for his autobiographical monologues.
It was bad enough that LeCompte, Gray, and Dafoe were all members of the same theater, the Wooster Club. To make matters a lot more awkward LeCompte and Gray continued living together after she started getting romantic with Dafoe. He just seeped into their lives. Being housemates would have been bad enough, but Dafoe, LeCompte, and Gray were loftmates. That must have been super awkward.
Have a Heart
Most of us generally associate Willem Dafoe with motion pictures – especially, bad guys in movies. What most of us don’t know is that Dafoe’s acting days actually started on stage. In the 1970s he joined an experimental and eccentric New York theater called The Wooster Group. Even though his girlfriend, Elizabeth LeCompte, was the theater director, it didn’t stop Dafoe from having to act in weird roles including starring as a living chicken heart.
Yep, that’s right. Dafoe played a chicken heart in Nyatt School’s “The Cocktail Party” (1978). Though Dafoe is mostly known for his roles as villains in movies, we have to say this actor showed plenty of heart for his role in “The Cocktail Party.”
Dafoe Pretends to Speak Dutch
“Heaven’s Gate” was Dafoe’s first acting credit according to IMDB. What’s interesting about Dafoe’s debut movie role was that he didn’t make the cut. Auditions were to be in English and another language, which Dafoe didn’t speak. The actor was applying for auditions for the 1980 film “Heaven’s Gate” which was to be directed by Michael Cimino.
Dafoe’s friend lent the aspiring actor a hand and wrote him a Dutch script to practice for the audition. However, during the audition, Cimino wanted an improvised scene to be done in Dutch. Dafoe was obviously unprepared and almost lost his first opportunity to have some screen time.
Dafoe Has the Last Laugh
In showbiz, sometimes all you need to do is get your foot in the door and you’re on your way. After landing a small role in “Heaven’s Gate”, things were looking up for the young Dafoe as he had the opportunity to work with the astute director, Michael Cimino.
Things took a turn for the worse when Dafoe apparently laughed too loud on set after sharing a joke during a super intense scene.
For his boisterous laughter, Cimino fired Dafoe. Clearly, Dafoe had gotten his foot into the showbiz door but perhaps he placed that foot wrong and got the boot. However, Dafoe really had the last laugh, as he remained in the film’s final cut.
A Debut for Three
Though “Heaven’s Gate” is considered Dafoe’s first acting role, the actor himself doesn’t consider it as his first real role. In fact, Dafoe believes that starring in the bike thriller, “The Loveless” (1981), was his first true role. Dafoe plays Vance, a greaser/biker who with his crew passes through a small town for a day and wreaks absolute havoc.
“The Loveless” was Dafoe’s debut in a leading role in a motion picture and Dafoe didn’t fail to deliver in his first onscreen performance. His character, Vance, certainly lives up to the movie’s title, “The Loveless.” The film wasn’t only a debut for Dafoe, but also for directors Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery.
There are plenty of Hollywood celebs who’ve joined the ranks of their parents. It’s not uncommon to find contemporary celebs who go back several generations. Perhaps, Hollywood is all about who you know after all. However, the child of one famous couple has decided against this. Jack Dafoe was born in 1982 to Willem Dafoe and experimental theater director/actress, Elizabeth LeCompte.
While his parents have clearly had their fair share of the spotlight, the younger Dafoe isn’t having any of it. He’s generally kept clear of any public attention and keeps himself to himself. What we do know is that he’s an environmentalist by trade. Naturally, he’s more of a wallflower than his parents who have a passion for dramatics.
A Bike Leader Reprisal
Apparently, Hollywood saw Willem Dafoe as the ideal biker gang leader after his performance in “The Loveless.” Just three years later, he landed the role of Raven Shaddock in the biker musical “Streets of Fire.” Like the plot of “The Loveless,” Dafoe and his biker gang, take to terrorizing and causing chaos. Unlike “The Loveless,” there’s a little more room for love and music in “Streets of Fire.”
Though the movie is over-the-top and takes the terrorizing motorcycle gang theme to the extreme, it stops at letting Dafoe sing. Dafoe didn’t have to do any singing for this role – although knowing the actor he’d probably gladly have done so.
A Guilty Pleasure
Like all of us, we’re sure that all actors have their own personal favorite films. They’re actors after all. And Willem Dafoe is no different. Like us, Dafoe indulges in his favorite film every now and then. While most of us have special places in our hearts for cult classics like “The Boondock Saints,” the OG “Spiderman,” and “Mississippi Burning,” Dafoe’s guilty pleasure is “Streets of Fire.”
The actor confesses that he re-watches it every year. Since Dafoe has countless other superb films, it’s quite interesting that one of his lesser-known roles is one of his favorites. Perhaps biker gangs terrorizing ordinary people amongst a whole lotta singing is a killer plot.
Dafoe Joins a Revolution
While “Apocalypse Now” is the big brother of Vietnam war films, its little brother was “Platoon,” starring Martin Sheen’s son, Charlie Sheen, and Willem Dafoe. It's generally known that “Apocalypse Now” was a nightmare for production and filming, and its younger brother war film “Platoon” also had its own hiccups. Filming for “Platoon” was delayed because of the nationalist revolution in the Philippines in 1986.
When filming was postponed, Dafoe and some of his co-stars literally took to the streets and joined the protestors. Though these actors were in the midst of a revolution, the “Platoon” actor commented that he enjoyed the experience as the protest had been mostly peaceful.
He Went to Bootcamp
It took a long time to make Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War film, “Platoon.” One of the things that lengthened the film’s creation was that the cast had to go to boot camp. In 2012, Dafoe described his boot camp training for “Platoon.” He explained that for 30 days members of the cast lived in the wilderness in the Philippines, where they had no contact with the outside world.
They also limited their food and water consumption. Well, that is one way of getting your cast of soldiers to look like they’ve gone through a war. The so-called training for the cast wasn’t unlike a battlefield as the crew would fire blanks into the air to wake the actors up or to keep them alert.
Up until the mid-1980s, Willem Dafoe had had small-time roles. The actor was waiting for his opportunity to make an entrance. And in 1986, director Oliver Stone gave him his moment. Based on Stone’s own experiences in the Vietnam War, Dafoe was cast in the war film “Platoon” alongside notable actors like Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. “Platoon” was certainly the fuel Dafoe’s career needed as it was a major success with both audiences and critics.
Against a budget of $6 million, “Platoon” was a major box-office hit. It was also loved by critics and at the 59th Academy Awards — the movie walked away with four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. “Platoon” was also the big break Dafoe needed.
And On the Topic of “Platoon”
During the filming of “Platoon,” the actors were warned not to drink the river water. If the actors needed any more convincing, during filming, the crew found the rotting carcass of a pig in the river. Before the carcass was found, Dafoe believed the water was clean enough. He filled up his water canteen, dropped in a purification tablet, and drank his fill.
It turns out the crew knew what they were talking about. Dafoe became seriously ill and started experiencing delirium. He had to take off 24 hours from filming. It’s unclear if Dafoe was suffering from malaria or cholera, but what is known is that this spell of illness hadn’t affected the quality of his acting. “Platoon” was still a hit with the Box Office.
A Dramatic On-Screen Death
A milestone for any actor is having an onscreen death. Not any actor can pull it off. If an actor adds just enough drama and realism to his dying scene, it not only leaves audiences shaken but makes the film poignant. If an actor gets it wrong, however, it's super cheesy and can leave the audience with a bad taste in their mouths – one with a bit too much cheese is involved.
Quite early into his career, Willem Dafoe got his first true test – a dying scene in “Platoon.” With its dramatic score, in “Platoon” we witnessed the heart-wrenching death of Sgt. Elias. It’s even more heartfelt because we say goodbye to one of Dafoe’s most likable onscreen personas.
An Academy Award Nomination
As you now know, “Platoon” was the first of many things for Willem Dafoe. It was the actor’s first on-screen death and war film. But it also cemented Dafoe’s credibility as an actor. Though it was only Dafoe’s tenth role in a motion picture, he earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Sgt. Elias.
Interestingly, it was Dafoe’s son’s babysitter who rang him up to let him know that he was in the running for an Oscar. It might have been better had Dafoe not known about the award because the award went to Michael Caine that year. Even though he had survived a revolution and water contamination after filming “Platoon,” Dafoe didn’t go home with the Oscar.
“The Last Temptation of Christ”
In the 1980s, Dafoe’s movie career had just taken off. Then, one role gave his career its first serious wobble, namely Martin Scorsese’s controversial religious epic, “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Dafoe's role couldn’t have been more controversial as he played the religious figure, Jesus of Nazareth. As the film deviated from the Gospels and was mostly a fictional account of Jesus Christ’s life, a lot of religious groups and institutions took issue with the film.
It was banned in several countries including Argentina, Mexico, Greece, and South Africa. Though Dafoe played the central role, he didn’t go looking for trouble. He was working as a teacher at the time when Scorsese gave him a call and the role of Jesus Christ.
Dafoe Went Blind
It’s pretty well-known that directors regularly make insane demands on their actors. And some actors are prepared to go to great lengths to get into character. For Martin Scorsese’s religious epic, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” he wanted Christ’s eyes to appear strange and other-worldly. To get this effect, Scorsese decided to dilate Dafoe’s pupils.
After being too liberal with the bottle of eye drops, he had Dafoe gaze into the sun for a long time. As said, directors can make insane demands of actors. After this filming sequence, the combination of the abundance of Moroccan sunlight and the overuse of eye drops resulted in Dafoe losing his vision. Thank goodness it returned three days later.
Here’s the classic movie that gave us the memorable line “What has four eyes but can’t see? Mississippi.” Starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, a rising star at the time. Earlier that year, Dafoe starred in “The Last Temptation of Christ” which didn’t sit well with some audiences. However, his acting career soon recovered with his solid performance as the FBI investigator Alan Ward.
Dafoe plays a strait-laced FBI agent who does everything by the book including his sharp look.
He acts as a foil to the more experienced FBI Agent Rupert Anderson. Though the film wasn’t an immediate success, it’s become something of a classic with its excellent performances from Dafoe, Hackman, and Frances McDormand. It also shows audiences that Dafoe can indeed play the good guy.
Reunion With Oliver Stone
Anyone who knows anything about cinema knows that directors have their favorites. In general, favoritism might be frowned upon, but in cinema, it can be the key ingredient to getting a film right. Three years later after the successful war film about Vietnam, Oliver Stone teamed up with Willem Dafoe again to make a war film about Vietnam.
This time Dafoe didn’t play a Sergeant but a paraplegic soldier who becomes friends with the protagonist. It seems like director Oliver Stone had found the perfect recipe for a successful Vietnam film, one that includes Willem Dafoe. Like its predecessor “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July” was a box-office sensation.
An Appointment With the Dentist
When you land a role with an iconic director, the last thing you want to hear is “We gotta get you an appointment with the dentist.” Of course, this iconic director we’re speaking about is David Lynch, who’s known for his weird and psychologically disturbing movies. “Wild at Heart” proved to be a typical David Lynch production as it’s as chaotic, shocking, and disturbing as the others. It was also just up Willem Dafoe’s alley.
Though Dafoe’s character had bad teeth and had to make an appointment with the dentist to wear double dentures to pull off his character’s look, Dafoe nailed the role. He brought to life one of cinema’s sleaziest two-timing criminals. With Lynch, Dafoe showed once again his talent for onscreen villains.
It seems like there’s no kind of film that Willem Dafoe isn’t willing to do. Certainly, no one ever could accuse Dafoe of being a typecast. In 1994, Dafoe added biopics to his acting resume. Even when it came to biopics, Dafoe took the daring opportunity of portraying the legendary poet, T.S. Eliot in “Tom & Viv” (1994). The plot centers around the complicated and tempestuous relationship between the poet and his wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot.
While biopics are certainly a favorite with the Academy, “Tom & Vic” performed dismally in every sense. It failed badly at the Box Office and critics didn’t rave about the film’s merits. Despite its failure, Dafoe gives a daring performance portraying Eliot, who many consider the greatest poet in the English language.
“The English Patient”
It didn’t win nine Academy Awards for nothing. While “The English Patient” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it was certainly the Academy’s at the 69th Academy Awards ceremony. It’s not only a dramatic story about a love doomed from the start, but it’s a story about intrigue. “The English Patient” had a stellar cast including the multi-talented Willem Dafoe.
In the film, Dafoe plays David Caravaggio, who’s bent on exacting vengeance on the soldiers who tortured him. Though Dafoe didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his role as Caravaggio, he was part of the ensemble that won nine Academy Awards – a testament to his incredible acting abilities, especially as he was out of his comfort zone starring in a historical romance.
Though Willem Dafoe was steadily making a name for himself as an indie actor, it became clearer and clearer to the actor that he’d need to sell out one day. In other words, he needed a blockbuster. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned. Dafoe landed the role of the villain, John Geiger, in “Speed 2: Cruise Control.”
Clearly, cruise control wasn’t at all in this villain’s plans as he hijacks a cruise liner and plans to use it to crash into an oil tanker. Spoiler alert – things went off the rails for both Geiger and Dafoe. “Speed 2” wasn’t only a bomb at the Box Office, but the critics poured in. For Dafoe’s first blockbuster sell-out, he earned a Golden Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor.
Against the Odds
Every now and then, there’s a film that makes waves that it’s not supposed to. “The Boondock Saints” was the passion project of an ordinary man who just liked movies. Okay, it was a very violent passion project, but it did become a cult classic. Willem Dafoe was part of the recipe that made it work. He stars as FBI Agent Paul Smecker who has the responsibility of tracking down killers who’ve made it their mission to take out members of the mafia.
Like plenty of other Dafoe films, the talented actor delivers a memorable performance as a detective whose investigating approach involves vicariously acting out the crime scene. “The Boondock Saints” was a Box Office flop but now it’s joined the ranks of other cult classics.
“Shadow of the Vampire”
Interestingly, it was in Willem Dafoe’s role in “Shadow of the Vampire” – and not “The English Patient” – where the actor had to be his most patient. The makeup alone took three hours to put on and three hours to take off. That means Dafoe had to spend six hours for a day of filming simply getting in and out of his costume.
“Shadow of the Vampire” demonstrated Dafoe’s eagerness to transform his body for a role – a willingness he had shown earlier with his role as Bobby Peru in “Wild at Heart.” Only this time it took six hours in the makeup chair. In “Shadow of the Vampire,” Dafoe stars as the actor who played in the original “Nosferatu.” He delivers one of his finest performances as an eerie and cunning vampire.
The Only Oscar-nominated Vampire
No, we’re not talking about Robert Pattinson, although some “Twilight” fans would certainly make a case for Pattison to be nominated for an Oscar. No, we’re talking about Willem Dafoe. Almost two decades before Dafoe would team up with Pattinson in “The Lighthouse,” Dafoe starred in the vampire film, “Shadow of the Vampire.”
Though there have been plenty of vampire movies, Dafoe is the only actor to receive an Oscar nomination for a vampire role for his portrayal of Max Schreck/Count Orlok in “Shadow of the Vampire.” Of course, he was the film’s villain. And clearly, Dafoe’s at his best when he’s playing a villain – even the Academy seems to think so.
After his role in the vampire thriller, “Shadow of the Vampire,” the question of whether Willem Dafoe is a method actor soon comes to mind. The Academy probably thinks so. As Dafoe trained with the avant-garde theater, The Wooster Group, he’s got pretty comfortable with experimenting. Dafoe hasn’t actually been labeled a method actor, but he’s been described as a “character chameleon.”
One of Dafoe’s approaches to acting is that he loses himself – he really gets into character. He uses gestures that he ordinarily wouldn’t use. The actor’s costume, the so-called externals, doesn’t only transform his body but helps Dafoe to lose his own personality. No wonder he was one of the creepiest vampires in living memory.
Before there were superhero movies, there were historical epics. As historical epics were slowly fading, a new trend hit cinemas – the Superhero movie. And it has survived two decades. Part of the original wave of superhero movies was the OG of superhero movies, the one that pretty much started it all – “Spider-Man.”
Thanks to the excellent performance of Willem Dafoe, the superhero trend had just the right villain to start it off with a bang. Though Dafoe wasn’t the obvious choice for a part in a movie based on a comic, the actor deeply wanted the role and fought hard for it. Not only did he steal the spotlight, but he did it time and time again as he played the dual role of Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin.
He Finally Gets His Blockbuster
Back in the 1990s, Willem Dafoe was hoping to add a blockbuster to his acting resume. Generally, the actor had been cast in several indie roles, but it was about time for him to join the ranks of a blockbuster or epic film. His first attempt with “Speed 2: Cruise Control” didn’t work out. Fortunately, years later, he got his blockbuster – “Spider-man.”
Though Dafoe was an established actor with an amazing record before he was cast in the superhero film, with “Spider-Man” Dafoe achieved worldwide success. It was the blockbuster/epic film he needed for his acting record. Clearly, action movies were out, and superhero films were in. And Dafoe was just the right villain for this trend to take off.
He Did His Own Stunts
One thing many of us don’t know is that when Willem Dafoe starred in “Spider-Man,” he did his own stunts too. And he’s not even an action star! For “Spider-Man” Dafoe wasn’t at all put off by the physical demands of the role. It only seemed to engage him more. He even learned to use the Green Goblin’s glider.
He did gravity-defying leaps and stunts while wearing the Green Goblin’s iconic metallic armor. Though Tobey McGuire was his junior by 20 years, he was impressed by Dafoe and commented that his co-star wasn’t only an excellent actor but was in great physical shape.
The last film you’d expect to find Willem Dafoe in is a cheery, colorful animation. But once again, Dafoe surprised audiences when he was cast in the cute classic, “Finding Nemo.” What’s even more interesting is that Dafoe wasn’t cast as the animation’s villain, but he plays Nemo’s idol-mentor, Gill.
And though his raspy voice generally makes Dafoe a perfect villain, he actually comes across as a wise and caring mentor. He lends the beloved clownfish a hand and helps him to escape the fish tank. Though “Finding Nemo” didn’t put Dafoe on the showbiz map, it did help demonstrate the actor’s acting range, in this case, his voice-acting abilities.
The Couple Call It Quits
As many of us know all too well, lots of good things come to an end. Though they weren’t ever married, Willem Dafoe and ex-partner, Elizabeth LeCompte broke up – a romantic partnership of 27 years came to an end. The couple managed to keep the public out of their business and the reasons for their relationship ending aren’t known. It’s also not clear whether the two ended on good terms.
Though LeCompte mentioned that she respected and admired Dafoe as an artist in an interview. As mentioned, she was the theater director of the Wooster Group, where Dafoe performed for 27 years. After their breakup, he never got a callback. Though things may seem quite icy between Dafoe and LeCompte, they share a son and a grandson.
“The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou”
Most of us don’t know Willem Dafoe as a theater actor, even though he worked for 27 years with the eclectic theatrical productions of The Wooster Group. Interestingly, working with film director Wes Anderson, Dafoe said he felt like he was back on stage. The first time Dafoe teamed up with the iconic director was for the adventure comedy, “The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou.”
Like most Anderson films, it’s good fun and it’s also shot in the director’s unusual style. Though the film tanked (pun intended) at the box office, it didn’t seem to bother Dafoe at all. After “The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou,” he still returned to work with Anderson on three more productions.
Even before they met, “Spider-Man” actor and Italian director/actress had known about each other through mutual friends. The interesting thing is that Dafoe and Colagrande met by chance in a street in Rome and soon after started dating. Perhaps it was serendipity. Colagrande was no stranger to Dafoe. He was already familiar with her work. Born in Pescara, in 1995, Colagrande moved to Rome where she began her career in film.
Six years later, the director’s debut film “Aprimi il Cuore” – translating to “My Open Heart” – was released. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Before the actress’ second film, fate intervened and she met Dafoe, who co-wrote and starred in her second film, “Before It Had a Name.”
A Marriage Without Delay
Some might have been tempted to describe Giada Colagrande and Willem Dafoe’s relationship as a whirlwind romance. It would certainly have seemed so as exactly after a year of dating, Dafoe asked Colagrande to marry him. Interestingly, the actor simply proposed to his better half over lunch. And true to the nature of a whirlwind romance, the couple married the very next day.
It wasn’t an elaborate affair. It was a small ceremony where the couple’s two best friends were present: his manager and her editor. As said, some might have been tempted to call their relationship a whirlwind romance but it’s proving to be anything but. The two are still inseparable almost two decades later.
A Bad Film
This bad film shouldn’t have had a name in the first place. “Before It Had a Name” is a lesson many movie-star couples sooner or later realize – their offscreen relationship doesn’t translate so well to the big screen. Just ask Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez about “Gigli.” Two years later, newlyweds, Willem Dafoe and Giada Colagrande made the same mistake.
They clearly didn’t see that "Gigli" walked home with seven Golden Razzies that year or “Before It Had a Name” might have never gone into production. Dafoe and Colagrande’s film “Before It Had a Name” flopped. No surprises there! Fortunately for Colagrande and Dafoe, there were worse contenders for the Golden Razzies that year.
Clearly, no role is off-limits for Willem Dafoe. This actor must have the most amusing credentials on his resume. In 1988, he starred as Jesus Christ in “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Decades later, he starred in Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist.” It doesn’t get any crazier than that – unless you’re speaking about von Trier’s film.
It’s a dark film that explores the wild grief of a twisted couple. Any film called “Antichrist” isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but what’s even more ironic is that Dafoe claims to love the film. You might be able to say many things about Dafoe, but you can’t say the actor isn’t passionate about his craft.
Another Member Gets Too Much Attention
We’re not talking about another member of the cast – well, not exactly. During the filming of an intimate scene in the artistic horror, “Antichrist,” director Lars von Trier decided to use a stand-in member for Willem Dafoe’s private parts. Von Trier explained that Dafoe’s own member would have been too distracting.
Since this intimate knowledge has come to light, plenty of fans and journalists have continually probed Dafoe on this point. Since Dafoe’s an actor who takes his art very seriously, such questions just rile him up. If you’re a fan, you'll know to avoid this talking point. Ironically, Dafoe isn’t afraid to do his own stunts, but for intimate scenes in “Antichrist,” he had to have a body double.
Not a Fan of the Cannes Critics
It’s hard to know which of Willem Dafoe’s films have been the most controversial. But one that certainly deserves a mention is “Antichrist.” Given the movie’s title, it’s clearly not going to be sunshine and roses. Without going into any detail, let’s just say Lars von Trier’s art-horror lives up to its name. Naturally, not everyone was going to be a fan.
When the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it didn’t exactly go down well with everyone – and understandably so. Some audience members booed and slammed the film for its graphic/gory content. Dafoe wasn’t having any of it. He loves the film – even to this day – and he had his own words for the people who booed “Antichrist.” He unkindly referred to them as “idiots.”
An International Sensation
One of Willem Dafoe’s hidden talents is that he is multilingual. Dafoe is a certified polyglot. Even though he almost didn’t make the cut for his first film “Heaven’s Gate,” because he pretended to speak Dutch when he really didn’t, Dafoe has taken great strides in correcting that. Dafoe speaks Italian, German, and French. Okay, he hasn’t taken steps to learn Dutch, but he’s come a long way when it comes to speaking different languages.
Thanks to his multilingual abilities, Dafoe has been cast in international productions like starring in “Paris, je t'aime” (2006), the Italian films “Pasolini” (2014) and “Tommaso” (2019), the Swiss-US-French production, and “4:44 Last Day on Earth” (2011).
The Wooster Group Gives Him the Boot
Even though Dafoe was one of The Wooster Group’s longest-serving members – and certainly one of its most loyal as he stuck to the theater throughout his thriving Hollywood career – after his breakup with Elizabeth LeCompte in 2004, The Wooster Group gave him the boot. The worst part is that he didn’t know anything about it – they just simply didn’t call him up.
Of course, things would have been awkward with Dafoe around as LeCompte was the theater director and one of the founders. Even though Dafoe has clearly stuck by the theater through thick and thin, when his relationship with LeCompte ended, the performance group wasn’t ready to stick with him. Fortunately for Dafoe, he’s had bigger fish to fry.
More Onscreen Deaths Than Sean Bean
While internet memes and forums love to go on about Sean Bean’s numerous onscreen deaths, Willem Dafoe has actually died more times onscreen than Bean. And that’s saying something. In total, 29 of Dafoe’s onscreen characters have died. He delivers his most heart-wrenching death in “Platoon” as he’s shot by enemy soldiers. He’s shot again in “Wild at Heart.”
Later, he gets vaporized in “Shadow of the Vampire.” His Green Globin character is impaled after Spider-man outsmarts him. And of course, playing Jesus of Nazareth he’s also crucified onscreen. We honestly have to take our hats off to Dafoe for upstaging Bean in the onscreen death department. But he hasn’t surpassed Danny Trejo who’s had a total of 65 onscreen deaths.
“You Know How Much I’ve Sacrificed”
If there’s any reason for Willem Dafoe to reprise his role as the Norman Osborn it would have to be at the Oscars. Dafoe is a Hollywood actor with an incredible legacy. He has an astounding number of acting credits to his name. Whether he’s starring as a crazed villain, eccentric detective, or even the good guy, he pulls the role off.
There are not many actors who have starred in as many roles while doing such an excellent job. Dafoe is excellent at his craft. Only the Oscars don’t think so. We really think Dafoe should reprise his role as “Spider-Man's” Osborn and let the Academy know just how much he’s sacrificed for his craft. He’s certainly due an Oscar by now.
No Oscars, No Razzies
Every actor hopes to win an Oscar. There is no greater appreciation of your artistic talent than winning one of these golden figurines. What an actor hopes never to win is a Golden Razzie. Even getting a nomination for a Golden Razzie is bad news. That’s why almost no actors turn up to accept their Razzies. The good news is that Willem Dafoe has been nominated for four Oscars.
The list includes Best Supporting Actor nominations for his roles in “Platoon,” “Shadow of the Vampire,” and “The Florida Project” and Best Actor nomination for “At Eternity’s Gate.” The bad news is that Dafoe has also picked up some Golden Razzie nominations: Worst Actor in “Body of Evidence” and Worst Supporting Actor in “Speed 2.” Clearly, even the best in showbiz can turn in bad performances.
Three Time’s a Detective
The Commodores once serenaded a woman who was “three times a lady.” Willem Dafoe has long been due his own serenading for being “three times a detective.” Especially as Hollywood has long cast Dafoe as the villain. With his toothy grin, sly gestures, and wide, gleaming eyes, he makes a fitting villain. But he’s also played the role of detective three times. And we’re not speaking about some unknown films. Dafoe was a detective in some classic films.
He starred as FBI Agent Alan Ward in “Mississippi Burning,” FBI Investigator Paul Smecker in “The Boondock Saints,” and private investigator Donald Kimball in “American Psycho.” However, he also starred as a New Mexico sheriff in the thriller, “White Sands.” Though Dafoe’s the quintessential screen villain, he’s pretty comfortable reversing the roles.
What do the director Robert Eggers and the incredibly talented actor Willem Dafoe have in common? Three things: “The Witch” (2015), “The Lighthouse” (2019), and “The Northman” (2022). Though Eggers has only recently come onto the directing scene, he’s making a name for himself. He’s not only a director but a writer and tends to weave folklore and mythological elements into his movies.
One actor who’s certainly a fan of Eggers’ creations is Dafoe. He’s starred in three of his films. Dafoe’s also clearly the director’s blue-eyed boy as he can’t seem to stop casting him in his movies. It would hardly be unexpected for Dafoe to appear in Eggers’ next film. Watch this space.
Skinned a Real Wallaby
Given that Willem Dafoe’s played a villain so many times, it’s not surprising that he’s actually skinned a real wallaby before. Considering what Dafoe goes through to get into character, we’re not surprised that he’s given us so many spine-chilling performances. In the film, there’s a scene where his character, Martin David, skins a wallaby. Only it’s not a prop.
Yes, animals were harmed in the making of this scene. Naturally, Dafoe couldn’t mess this up. Thank goodness finances restricted the crew to only one wallaby. Dafoe didn’t mess it up because he had taken training with a Tasmanian tracker to make sure he did the skinning scene right – and didn’t land up with the animal’s juices exploding in his face. That would have been a stinker.
A Split Life
Though many of us think of Willem Dafoe as an American actor, he’s actually an international citizen. After marrying Italian film director, Giada Colagrande, Dafoe’s been leading somewhat of a double life. It’s not exactly what you’re thinking. As Colagrande hails from and lives in Italy, Dafoe splits his time between the US and Italy.
In fact, after the couple married, Dafoe became naturalized as an Italian citizen. He’s even learned Italian for the citizenship. Of course, it’s not completely out of the ordinary for an actor to live a double life but for Dafoe, it means living in two cities on two different continents and in two different languages. Now, that’s quite the double life.
It seems like Dafoe has a radar for controversial films. Just as his career started, he was already starring in films that were causing quite a scene like “The Last Temptation of Christ.” That certainly wasn’t Dafoe’s last temptation for controversy. Almost three decades later, he took on the role that was bound to create a bit of scene. Fortunately, it was the international motion picture “Pasolini” which drew very indie audiences.
Nothing is too out there for Dafoe. He starred as the controversial director Pier Paolo Pasolini whose films were at the very least shocking. “Pasolini” was another biopic that Dafoe added to his repertoire – and just another occasion for Dafoe to stick his head above the parapet.
Speaker for University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
It’s quite something when your Alma Mater university invites you back to deliver their commencement speech. A list of incredible people has all been speakers from some prestigious colleges. Jeff Bezos has delivered Princeton’s commencement and graduation speeches. Mark Zuckerburg gave his commencement speech to Harvard freshmen. Steve Jobs was invited to Stanford to give a commencement speech.
In 2022, Willem Dafoe was invited to give a commencement speech at his Alma Mater, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
It’s a bit of a stretch on the universities’ part to invite Jobs and Dafoe to give their speeches considering that both Jobs and Dafoe had dropped out of college. The irony is quite priceless, but then again so is hearing a speech from Dafoe.
Extreme Imposter Syndrome
Generally, when we start with our career paths or make an abrupt change to our careers, we feel imposter syndrome. We believe we’re not skilled enough to do the job right. We often don’t even use the new professional label. Believe it or not, imposter syndrome affects us all – even some A-listers like Willem Dafoe.
When discussing his career with Vanity Fair, Dafoe admits that he had never really seen himself as an actor because he hadn’t set out to be one in the first place. After enough time passed, Dafoe accepted this fact stating, “Then enough time passed, and I thought I get I’m an actor – I’ve been doing this for a while.” Clearly, Dafoe had an extreme case of imposter syndrome which he only recently got over.
A Yoga Enthusiast
Willem Dafoe should be the official spokesperson for yoga, specifically Ashtanga Yoga. When Dafoe had to reprise his role of the Green Goblin, the then-66-year-old actor insisted on doing all his own stunts. Apparently, he’s in great physical shape. And Dafoe believes that’s all thanks to his regular practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Every day, the actor will spend an hour and a half doing yoga.
What’s more surprising is he isn’t all that keen on going to the gym – he’d rather do yoga and meditate. That said, he doesn’t play around when he practices yoga. He pushes himself to his physical limits. Dafoe really should be the poster boy for Ashtanga Yoga as he’s been practicing it for 30 years.
No one could really accuse Willem Dafoe of trying to hog the limelight. While Dafoe has seen some screen time in major blockbusters like “Spider-Man,” “XXX: State of the Union,” and “Aquaman,” he’s also set aside plenty of his time for indie films. Small budgets don’t deter Dafoe at all.
The A-lister has starred in small productions like the political film “Miral” (2010), the Italian drama “Padre” (2016), and another Italian production, “Finalmente l'alba” (2023). It’s not only minor Italian productions that Dafoe stars in. In 2023, he also had a small role in the Japanese animation “The Boy and the Heron.” For almost his entire career, Dafoe has been an indie-film champion.
Not Proud of His Polar Bear Voice-over Commercial
Every actor has one credential on his resume that he wishes wasn’t there. For Willem Dafoe, that would be his voice role as Clarence, the Polar Bear. In 2010, the international frozen foods brand, Birds Eye, hired Dafoe to do the voice work for their polar bear mascot, a.k.a. Clarence, in their TV commercials.
Dafoe is one of those actors who’s willing to take on any role including the voice-acting part for an international franchise’s mascot. The frozen foods brand paid a whopping $10 million for the advertising campaign. We can’t exactly say Dafoe was grateful for the opportunity, because he doesn’t like to speak about his short stint for Birds Eye.
“The Florida Project”
Though Willem Dafoe’s been an actor for close to two-thirds of his life, when he was given the opportunity to play a regular guy, he jumped at the offer. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason why Dafoe took on his role in "The Florida Project." He also wanted to work with the independent director, Sean Baker. Dafoe was cast in the role of Bobby Hicks, a hotel manager with a kind heart who goes out of his way to help others.
Hicks may have a kind heart, but he’s just an ordinary, regular person. The interesting part is Dafoe earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in “The Florida Project.” Clearly, you don’t have to be a larger-than-life character to make an impression on the judges of the Oscars.
Interview Magazine wasn’t kidding when they titled their article “Willem Dafoe and Abel Ferrara Just Can’t Quit Each Other.” As the article accurately explains, Ferrara’s films aren’t exactly squeaky clean nor does he attempt to stay away from controversy. After all, the director’s debut film was one of a more adult nature. Anyone who knows anything about Dafoe knows controversy is just right up the actor’s alley.
No wonder the two are inseparable. Since his role in the apocalyptic drama “4:44 Last Day on Earth” in 2011, the duo has teamed up time and time again. Dafoe starred in Ferrara’s biopic “Pasolini” and later was cast in the leading role in “Tommaso.” Finally, the two were at it again when Ferrara cast Dafoe in his psychological thriller “Siberia.”
He Learned to Paint Like van Gogh
If there’s one actor who’s literally devoted to his craft, it would be Willem Dafoe. Though the actor’s not strictly a method actor, he’s one step there. Julian Schnabel’s biopic of the Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh, didn’t take any shortcuts. Of course, it’s a biographical account of van Gogh so naturally there’d be painting involved.
Except, for one thing, Dafoe, playing the main character van Gogh, wasn’t a painter and couldn’t paint. For “At Eternity’s Gate,” the actor learned to paint – and paint like van Gogh. Schnabel who could paint helped teach Dafoe. Fortunately, it didn’t take an eternity for Dafoe to pick up this talent else those extended painting scenes might have been left out.
Another Superhero Film
Most of us would agree that Willem Dafoe’s not exactly a superhero kind of actor. That said, when he joins the cast of a superhero production, he generally delivers a killer performance. In 2018, Dafoe joined the star-studded line-up for the aquatic superhero film “Aquaman.”
Certainly, Dafoe had to dive out of his comfort zone to take part in this blockbuster as most of his scenes as Nuidis Vulko were underwater. Fortunately, Dafoe wasn’t in deep water with the producers. Three years later they called him back to reprise his role as Vulko in Zack Snyder's "Justice League," making the director’s cut.
A Feud With Lynn Barber
Lynn Barber isn’t exactly a household name, but you might’ve read one of her articles before. If it was a scathing criticism of Dafoe, the chances are it was written by Barber. This journalist has plenty of experience and became a writer for the major publication, the Sunday Times. Though journalists need to be objective, that wasn’t the case with Barber when it came to the Hollywood actor Dafoe.
Barber admitted Dafoe was a fine actor, but she didn’t hold back when it came to remarking on him personally. She criticized his lifestyle and character. She also took a dig at him for the way he spoke to reporters explaining he just rambled on. Barber certainly pushed some buttons as Dafoe referred to her as an “awful woman.”
MCU and DC
While the Avengers fought the “Infinity War” in 2018, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has had its own infinity war with the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Marvel Studios and DC Studios are the production companies and creators of these competing superhero comic universes. Every now and then, actors toe the line and star in films produced by both studios, but crossovers are pretty rare. Dafoe is one of those actors.
In 2018, he landed the role of the DCEU character, Nuidis Vulko, in “Aquaman.” Later, he reprised his role in “Zack Snyder's Justice League.” But even before his stint with the DCEU, he played the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn in “Spider-Man.” For “Spiderman: No Way Home,” Dafoe crossed over into the MCU, reprising his role as the Green Goblin.
Though Robert Pattinson was the heartthrob of the "Twilight" saga, the actor has tried to put as much distance between himself and the role of Edward Cullen. Fortunately, Pattinson found the perfect accomplice to help him do just that. In an almost entirely two-man show, he and Dafoe show exactly how much insanity can be conjured up in an isolated lighthouse amidst a wild storm where there’s no human contact except for your crazy housemate.
If the housemate’s not continuously antagonizing you, he's forcing you to do the most physically demanding housework. Of course, director Robert Eggers found the film’s perfect crazy housemate and antagonist, Dafoe, who’s an expert at pulling off weird characters and villains. Put them together and you have one of the most notoriously awful housemates.
No Bonding With Pattinson During “The Lighthouse”
Now, we know why there was no love lost between the two main characters in “The Lighthouse.” The two lead actors, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson had no time to bond during filming. That explains the tension between the two main characters. The reason the two didn’t bond was there wasn’t time for it. Filming was exhausting, leaving the actors too drained to make friends.
When the actors weren’t on the set, Dafoe stayed in a fisherman’s cottage while Pattinson stayed in town, so they didn’t bump into each other much. The weather didn’t help matters. It was very extreme, and the actors spent more time trying to stay dry than making conversation. Despite their intense dislike for one another in the movie, the two became good friends after filming.
Connecting With a Lobster
Willem Dafoe may not have had the time to bond with co-star Robert Pattinson during the filming of “The Lighthouse,” but he had time to bond with a rather odd companion – a lobster. The connection between the lobster and Dafoe was so strong that it convinced him to quit seafood.
Though Dafoe had formerly been quite fond of lobster – and knew the right technique to massage them to make them sleep before boiling them – after a day of shooting, a lobster apparently spoke to him. That was all the persuasion Dafoe needed to give up the delicacy and seafood for good. Okay, not quite for good as the actor can’t resist a fish sandwich every now and then.
Conditions for His Return
Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy may have had the Joker, but in the MCU, the “Spider-Man” franchise hit the right note with the Green Goblin. In 2021, Marvel released its Spider-Man reunion/multiverse film “Spider-Man: No Way Home” not only reuniting the three different Spider-mans but allowing past villains to take advantage of the botched spell and breach the universe.
One such past villain was The Green Globin, an insidious and vengeful villain brought to life by Willem Dafoe and his famous grin. Though almost two decades had passed since his appearance as the villain in the OG “Spider-man” and though Dafoe was 66 years old in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Dafoe only agreed to return to the studio if they allowed him to do his own stunts. Clearly, Dafoe doesn’t mess around.
What’s Willem Dafoe’s secret? He’s been around for decades and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s doing more movie roles than ever and what’s more, he’s still doing his own stunts. Dafoe’s big secret could be that he’s into healthy living. The actor makes sure he takes excellent care of himself and his faculties. He meditates, exercises, and does yoga.
In fact, he’s really disciplined about exercising and meditating and makes sure he does both every day. He also takes his eating habits very seriously. He was even vegan for a spell. Even though his dietary habits have changed, he still makes sure he has a healthy diet.
An Avid Journaler
Willem Dafoe might have a busy schedule starring in several movies a year, but the actor still makes time to journal. Dafoe has been journalling for 40 years and has filled a heap of books along the way. Though Dafoe journals to record his thoughts and accounts of day-to-day happenings, his written entries also serve a different purpose.
He uses his journals to write down reminders and phone numbers and make a note of jokes and anecdotes. Finally, he also adds memorabilia to his diaries like newspaper clippings and Polaroids. We’re not surprised Dafoe’s managed to fill 40 years of diaries. We only wonder if he has kept every single book.
A Wes Anderson Regular
Everyone knows that movie director Wes Anderson has a team of actors that he likes to work with. We all know that Bill Murray is Anderson’s go-to actor, starring in many of his films. Another actor who’s become a bit of an Anderson regular is Willem Dafoe which is interesting given that Dafoe generally plays the tough guy/villain and Anderson’s films are quirky comedy-dramas.
In 2004, Dafoe starred in his debut Anderson film “The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou.” In 2009, he was back as Rat in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” In 2014, he returned for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and finally joined the enormous cast of “The French Dispatch” in 2021.
Five Decades of Film – and Still Going Strong
Willem Dafoe’s acting career goes back to 1979 when he arrived in New York City and signed up with The Wooster Group. Five decades later, he’s still going strong. We weren’t exaggerating when we said he was going strong. During the 1980s, Dafoe starred in one or two films – three at most – a year. However, in the last decade, he’s doubled the number of roles he’s taking on.
In 2021, he had six acting credits including “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “The French Dispatch,” and Zach Snyder’s “Justice League.” Dafoe has long passed the 100 acting credentials benchmark, but at this rate, we won’t be surprised if he soon reaches 200.