4 July 2012 4:00 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

He has played goodies, baddies, creeps and goblins. But Willem Dafoe's latest film posed new challenges. He talks to Steve Rose about his hits, his flops – and the perils of skinning a wallaby

It is a perennial paradox. Studios spend vast sums of money bringing together the efforts of hundreds of skilled technicians, well-drilled actors and extras – yet cinema is often at its most compelling when simply showing an individual silently going about their business. There are countless examples: James Stewart stalking Kim Novak in Vertigo, David Hemmings poring over his prints in Blow-Up, Daniel Day-Lewis scrabbling underground in There Will Be Blood. We tend not to regard "just doing stuff" as acting – but perhaps making it all so absorbing is actually the hallmark of a great actor.

In his new movie The Hunter, released tomorrow, Willem Dafoe does "stuff" very well. His character is searching for the last Tasmanian tiger, »

- Steve Rose

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