Willem Dafoe Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (8)  | Trivia (36)  | Personal Quotes (29)

Overview (3)

Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA
Birth NameWilliam J. Dafoe
Height 5' 8½" (1.74 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Having made over one hundred films in his legendary career, Willem Dafoe is internationally respected for bringing versatility, boldness, and daring to some of the most iconic films of our time. His artistic curiosity in exploring the human condition leads him to projects all over the world, large and small, Hollywood films as well as Independent cinema.

In 1979, he was given a role in Michael's Cimino's Heaven's Gate, from which he was fired. Since then, he has collaborated with directors who represent a virtual encyclopedia of modern cinema: James Wan, Robert Eggers, Sean Baker, Kenneth Branagh, Kathryn Bigelow, Sam Raimi, Alan Parker, Walter Hill, Mary Harron, Wim Wenders, Anton Corbijn, Zhang Yimou, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Oliver Stone, William Friedkin, Werner Herzog, Lars Von Trier, Abel Ferrara, Spike Lee, David Cronenberg, Paul Schrader, Anthony Minghella, Theo Angelopoulos, Robert Rodriguez, Phillip Noyce, Hector Babenco, John Milius, Paul Weitz, The Spierig Brothers, Andrew Stanton, Josh Boone, Dee Rees and Julian Schnabel.

Dafoe has been recognized with four Academy Award nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Platoon, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Shadow Of The Vampire, for which he also received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Florida Project, for which he also received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, and most recently, Best Leading Actor for At Eternity's Gate, for which he also received a Golden Globe nomination. Among his other nominations and awards, he has received two Los Angeles Film Critics Awards, a New York Film Critics Circle Award, a National Board of Review Award, two Independent Spirit Awards, Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup, as well as a Berlinale Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement.

Willem was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, to Muriel Isabel (Sprissler), a nurse, and William Alfred Dafoe, a surgeon. He is of mostly German, Irish, Scottish, and English descent. He and his wife, director Giada Colagrande, have made three films together: Padre, A Woman, and Before It Had A Name.

His natural adventurousness is evident in roles as diverse as Marcus, the elite assassin who is mentor to Keanu Reeves in the neo-noir John Wick; in his voice work as Gil the Moorish Idol in Finding Nemo and Ryuk the Death God in Death Note; as Paul Smecker, the obsessed FBI agent in the cult classic The Boondock Saints; and as real life hero Leonhard Seppala, who led the 1925 Alaskan dog sled diphtheria serum run in Ericson Core's Togo. That adventurous spirit continues with upcoming films including Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch, Abel Ferrara's Siberia, and Paul Schrader's The Card Counter.

Dafoe is one of the founding members of The Wooster Group, the New York based experimental theatre collective. He created and performed in all of the group's work from 1977 thru 2005, both in the U.S. and internationally. Since then, he worked with Richard Foreman in Idiot Savant at The Public Theatre (NYC), with Robert Wilson on two international productions: The Life & Death of Marina Abramovic and The Old Woman opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov and developed a new theatre piece, directed by Romeo Castellucci, based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Minister's Black Veil. He recently completed work on Marina Abramovic's opera 7 Deaths of Maria Callas.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Family (4)

Spouse Giada Colagrande (25 March 2005 - present)
Children Jack
Parents Muriel Sprissler Dafoe
Dafoe, William Alfred
Relatives Barbara Dafoe Whitehead (sibling)
Samuel Dafoe (niece or nephew)

Trade Mark (8)

Low-key, yet gravelly voice
Psychotic unstable characters
Characters that often meet a grim fate
Prominent cheekbones and serpentine smile
Deeply lined face that can be contorted to frightening effect
Frequently portrays soldiers or eccentric characters
Frequently portrays psychotic villains or wounded mentors. Both are often in relentless pursuit of their goals.
Frequently cast by Paul Schrader and Wes Anderson.

Trivia (36)

Has a son with Elizabeth LeCompte: Jack Dafoe (born 1982).
His first name, William, is shared with his father. He did not want to be called William Jr. or Billy, and among various nicknames since childhood, was Willem, which he liked, and has kept this name ever since.
Says he feels like he has missed out on more conventional roles because he's perceived as an eccentric actor in dark little films, kind of the boy-next-door type - if you lived next door to a mausoleum.
Attended Einstein Junior High School in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he was known as "Billy".
He did most of his own stunts on the glider in Spider-Man (2002). So when you see the Green Goblin moving around on it, when it's not CG, then it's Willem pretty much the whole time.
He was delirious for 24 hours after coming down with yellow fever on the set of Platoon (1986).
Attended and graduated from Appleton East High School in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Quite possibly has the most on-screen deaths of any mainstream actor. His death scenes include Platoon (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), eXistenZ (1999), Shadow of the Vampire (2000), Spider-Man (2002), and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), among others.
The only actor to ever be nominated for an Oscar for playing a vampire, for his role as Max Schrek in Shadow of the Vampire (2000).
John Malkovich, Nicolas Cage, and Dafoe were all approached to play the Green Goblin in Spider-Man (2002). Dafoe and Malkovich starred in Shadow of the Vampire (2000) together, while Cage produced the film. Dafoe ended up getting the Spider-Man role.
He was under consideration for Dennis Hopper's role (Frank Booth) in Blue Velvet (1986).
While doing a blocking run-through on Wild at Heart (1990) (for the scene in which Dafoe's character threatens to rape Laura Dern's character), Dafoe playfully sang his lines. Director David Lynch loved this, and wanted Dafoe to actually sing his lines in the scene, when they shot it. However, the idea did not actually go through.
Is the second youngest of eight siblings. He has five sisters, named Diane Fredrickson, Jane Lambie, Nancy Christiansen, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, and Sarah Holbrook, and two brothers, named Richard and Donald. Brother, Donald Dafoe, is an accomplished transplant surgeon.
Was listed as a potential nominee on the 2006 Razzie Award nominating ballot. He was listed as a suggestion in the Worst Supporting Actor category for his performance in the film xXx: State of the Union (2005) However, he failed to receive a nomination (Had he gotten the nomination, it would have been his third overall. He was previously nominated for Worst Supporting Actor at the 1998 Razzie Awards for his role in Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), and for Worst Actor at the 1994 Razzie Awards for his performance in Body of Evidence (1992).).
He was offered the role of Senator Ethan Roark in Sin City (2005), which went to Powers Boothe.
Visited the Sarajevo International Film Festival together with Steve Buscemi in 2000.
He was a candidate for the role of the Joker in Batman (1989), which went to Jack Nicholson.
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival in 2007.
Was involved for decades (from 1977) with theater director and actress Elizabeth LeCompte, who was also a member and director of the Wooster Group. He later married Italian writer/director Giada Colagrande in 2005.
Provided his voice on Lou Reed's album "The Raven" (2003). On it, he performs a rewritten and reworked, spoken-word version of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry.
To date, he has shot 18 films in Europe. [2007]
Built sets and acted with experimental Milwaukee, Wisconsin group Theatre X, before moving to New York in 1977, where he worked with the Wooster Group at the Performing Garage.
Has English, French, German, Irish, Northern Irish, Scottish and Swiss-French ancestry. Many of his antecedents resided in Canada.
As of 2014, has appeared in six films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Platoon (1986), Mississippi Burning (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), The English Patient (1996), The Aviator (2004) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Of those, Platoon (1986) and The English Patient (1996) are winners in the category.
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 67th Cannes International Film Festival in 2014.
Has worked with seven directors who have won a Best Director Oscar: Michael Cimino, Kathryn Bigelow, William Friedkin, Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, Anthony Minghella and Guillermo del Toro.
He sticks to an all-organic, vegan diet except for the rare occasion when he indulges in a fried lake perch sandwich.
He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio.
Divides his time between Rome, New York City and Los Angeles with his Italian wife Giada.
Childhood celebrity crush was sex symbol Raquel Welch.
The longest he has gone without an Academy Award nomination is the 17 years between Shadow of the Vampire (2000) and The Florida Project (2017).
As a 12-year old, he attended the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, better known as the Ice Bowl, one of the most famous games in pro football history.
Named one of "The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century" by the New York Times (November 25, 2020).
Born at 7:30 PM (CST).
He has appeared in one film that has been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Platoon (1986).
He received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Personal Quotes (29)

[on his role in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)]: "To this day, I can't believe I was so brazen to think I could pull off the Jesus role."
I don't think people want to see me as a regular guy, besides, I'm a regular guy in real life. I guess I just want to be reckless in my work.
Casting people feel that they have to get someone who looks a certain way, and I think that the jury is still out whether people find me attractive or not.
I wish to Christ I could make up a really great lie. Sometimes, after an interview, I say to myself, 'Man, you were so honest - can't you have some fun? Can't you do some really down and dirty lying?' But the puritan in me thinks that if I tell a lie, I'll be punished.
Weirdness is not my game. I'm just a square boy from Wisconsin.
The worst thing is to get involved with people who aren't passionate about what they're doing.
I'm one of those people who when I go over a bridge, I want to jump. It's just this intense tickle in the back of my throat. It's like I'm on the verge the whole time I'm walking over that bridge, and I'm not going to get a release until I jump.
...it's very clear that a lot of people that have really strong instincts as actors are very often inarticulate...Sometimes, you know, classically, if someone's very intellectual, they aren't as connected to the doing of things. And the doing is really the key to finding the emotionality and the spirit of things.
[on whether good actors help other actors]: "You're always looking for good people to work with, because you feed each other. That's all."
[on why he became an actor]: "You know, it shifts. When it starts out in the beginning, I think it's purely a social thing. The thing you get reinforcement for, it's a way of acting out. It's a way of getting attention. It's a way of just fitting in socially. And then, as I get older, it transforms into something else."
I never act. I simply bring out the real animal that's in me.
I'm an optimist. I hope if a movie's good that it will be a success, but as we know, that's not always true, just because of popular taste, advertising, distribution patterns, there's lots of reasons. When something doesn't do better than it deserves to in your mind, it's pretty transparent, you usually know why. Is that a comfort? Yes, because it's logical. Does it make you happy? No, because if you think a movie is beautiful or interesting, you want to share it. It's really true; there's no accounting for taste. Sometimes you make very interesting movies that aren't meant for everybody. But this is a capitalist society, so everything conspires to put value on whether it sells or not. While we have a very strong popular culture, the roots of our culture are very shallow, and we put emphasis on how a movie does as far as the box office goes. Many years ago, it would have been vulgar to print box-office grosses in the paper. Now The New York Times does it, and it's the big story for people interested in arts and entertainment on Monday. Which is why emphasis has shifted away from filmmakers and fallen on movie stars and business people.
Any actor who tells you that he makes choices, absolutely, is wrong. You find work and work finds you.
When you look back at your experiences, it's true that sometimes the most horrendous experiences can translate into being your best work.
All the time, as an actor, you want to be asking what's next and where things are going. If you're not asking those questions you're not growing.
Sometimes I have a desire to control what I do a little bit, especially when I do a smaller movie. But basically, my impulses are the impulses of a child. I like being the thing itself. I don't like thinking about it. And that doesn't mean I'm not analytical or that I'm anti-intellectual. I'm not trying to say I'm a totally intuitive kind of guy. It's just that my real pleasure, where I feel vital and everything drops away, is when I'm in the middle of doing it, and I look for that opportunity untainted by other responsibilities. But I'm getting too serious. When I try to explain what I do, I get a little bit disgusted with myself because I come off too earnest. In the simplest terms, it's a pleasure to borrow someone else's body and someone else's life. That's the craft, and it's a bit like voodoo, because you don't know exactly how you do it. - On his acting style.
It's one of those invented things. I spend a lot of time in Germany so it's in my head. I didn't feel the need to go to a dialogue coach and be very strict with it because that's not in the spirit of how it should be approached. My take was that it should be played with and invented. It's my idea of a Germanish accent - On his accent in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).
Sometimes I envy their power and money, and other times I feel sorry for them since they have a gun to their head. They have so much to protect that they have to be very careful, thus very certain every step of the way, and that leaves out a lot of work of any freshness. I don't want to do that - I'm not that kind of actor. - On top Hollywood actors.
On principle I don't have favorites. To pass judgment on something you've done is a face-saving act, and I think it kinda stinks. There are all kinds of movies, all kinds of impulses and all kinds of needs for people watching movies, and sometimes I'll do a movie that I don't particularly care for, but then I'll run into someone that it speaks to and they love it. So for me, to give my personal take on it, could mean ruining that movie for someone else, because they can find pleasure where I can't. - On his favorite roles.
Most of the work happens when you're on the set. It's like going to a cocktail party - you know who's going to be there, you have certain expectations about the topics of conversation and the social dynamic. At the same time, when you arrive, you've got to be able to abandon those preconceptions and be mercurial. But sometimes the most important thing is just having a good costume. - On preparation for the characters he plays.
I always like to mix it up. It's like anything. If you're eating pasta for a week, eventually, you crave something else. A balanced diet of different roles and different stories and movies - I think it's the way to stay healthy artistically and career wise. It does a funny thing because you're not refining one way of seeing you. That's one way to have a career. You can make a persona, corner a market, and make yourself almost a thing. You can use that and that can be interesting iconographical but I still am that actor who likes to bend myself to the material rather than find material to support some idea of who I am or some persona that I've made, or some mask that I've made. - On his career.
On The Last Temptation of Christ (1988): It had a profound influence on me. Marty [Scorsese] had made this movie in his head for years, and I felt privileged to be involved.
[2004, on selection parts] I'm always looking for an adventure-I try not to work just to work. I always try to find people that are burning to tell a story and then help them do it. I try to avoid anyone that pokes around-filmmaking should be an opportunity to make something that's very thrilling and, you know, exciting. On some level, I'm a sensation junkie.
I'm always very fond of laconic, cut-off characters that have a rich inner life, and you have to restrain that.
There's a funny perception that I play bad guys, but if you really know my movies, the big and small ones, the truth is often I play good guys. But they're good guys that are flawed, good guys who are outside of society. They're odd or they're criminals, but morally they tend to function as good people.
[on being a veteran on a set with mostly newcomers in The Florida Project (2017)] My job is to fit in with them. I'm aware that I have more experience, but when we're all in the room together, we're just trying to help one another. I had to fit in with them; that's the real takeaway, and that's the pleasure, because whenever you're in a movie, that's your job. You want to be the fabric of the story, you want to be woven into it. You don't want to show off. You don't want to stick out. [Nov. 2017]
[on The Florida Project (2017)] The script was excellent. I liked the world. I didn't quite know what the character was until I started doing it. I also liked Sean [director Sean Baker] a great deal. He has a great film culture; he's smart. He's also a one-man band in that he really rolls up his sleeves, edits his own work, writes his own work. I mean, we're talking auteur-land, and I like that. [Nov. 2017]
[on The Florida Project (2017)] I grew up middle class, but I was always aware of poverty, even in the little mill town I was raised in. Now, as I go through life, I recognize those people are us. That was the process of making the movie, too. We were working with people who were actually living in that motel, and it informed what we were doing. Hopefully, people will see how precarious all our lives are if we don't help each other. There's a strong humanist message to the story. (...) The people whose story we're telling are basically living in the room next door. Sometimes they would help us as extras and in other ways. Some of the performers were in a similar situation, where they were longtime temporary residents in hotels. So we were working with people who had this type of life. (...) The fact that this is going on in the shadow of Disney World and this area of entertainment - a place to be happy and to be diverted - is significant. But I also think the film isn't pointing any fingers. Disney employs a lot of people, and they give money toward this problem and help to solve this problem, so it's not taking Disney to task, but it is clear that this problem is happening in the shadow of a place where people go to have fun. [Nov. 2017]
"How did it affect your performance being in the presence of real destitution and real desperation?" Marc Maron "It keeps you honest. You don't make a bullshit movie. You honor those people, and they stop being 'those people' and they become *your* people. Because you're one of them - just by sheer proximity. You're talking to them, they're telling you stories - that informs everything. You're down with them. And it may be temporary, and you have no illusion." - in response to Marc Maron asking how it affected his performance being in the presence of real destitution and desperation, while filming The Florida Project (2017)

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