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Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe

Birth name: William James Dafoe
Born: July 22, 1955
Age: 63
Birthplace: Appleton, Wisconsin, U.S.
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Biography

William James Dafoe (born July 22, 1955), known professionally as Willem Dafoe, is an American actor. A member of the experimental theater company the Wooster Group, he has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor three times for his roles as Elias in Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986), Nosferatu actor Max Schreck in the horror film Shadow of the Vampire (2000), and Bobby Hicks in The Florida Project (2017).

One of the most prolific character actors of American cinema, Dafoe has appeared in films including To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Mississippi Burning (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), The English Patient (1996), The Boondock Saints (1999), American Psycho (2000), Spider-Man (2002), John Wick (2014), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). He is also known for his roles in European arthouse films Faraway, So Close! (1993), The Dust of Time (2008) and Antichrist (2009).

He has also had voice-over roles in Finding Nemo (2003) and its sequel Finding Dory (2016), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), John Carter (2012), and the Netflix's adaptation of Death Note (2017).

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Early life

Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin. One of eight children of Muriel Isabel (née Sprissler) and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe (1917-2014), he recalled in 2009: "My five sisters raised me because my father was a surgeon, my mother was a nurse and they worked together, so I didn't see either of them much." He has German, English, Irish, Scottish, and French ancestry. In high school, he acquired the nickname Willem, which is the Dutch version of the name William.

Dafoe studied drama at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but left after a year and a half to join the experimental theater company Theatre X in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before moving to New York in 1976. There he apprenticed under Richard Schechner, director of the avant-garde theater troupe The Performance Group, where he met and became romantically involved with Elizabeth LeCompte. She, with her former romantic partner Spalding Gray and others, edged out Schechner and created the Wooster Group. Within a year Dafoe was part of the company.

Career

Dafoe, who would continue with the Wooster Group into the 2000s, began his film career in 1981, when he was cast in Heaven's Gate only to see his role removed from the film during editing. As Dafoe recalled of his first film experience, (in which he played a cockfighter):

I worked for Jeff Bridges' character in the story. I was there for three months and I worked a lot. It was the kind of thing where you were hired to play an unscripted character and then they developed these smaller characters. I had scenes and everything and was really enjoying it and then one day we were doing a lighting setup for a long time; basically eight hours standing in place, and a woman told me a joke in my ear and I laughed at a moment of silence. Cimino turned around and said, 'Willem step out,' and that was that. I was the lamb for sacrifice."

In 1982, he starred as the leader of an Outlaw motorcycle club in The Loveless, and then played a similar role in Streets of Fire (1984). In the mid-1980s, he was cast by William Friedkin to star in To Live and Die in L.A., in which Dafoe portrays counterfeiter Rick Masters. He became "very conscious" that he might be typecast as a villain, saying in 1998,

I really made a conscious effort to mix it up, not because in itself it's not the job of an actor to do all different things, but for me that's what I'm interested in. You've got to be careful because you've got to work with what you have, not just for vanity's sake, but I think the best part of being an actor sometimes is the opportunity to transform yourself superficially, and deeply. So, it's true in the beginning I started playing villains and I think that's pretty clear because if you don't conventionally look a certain way and you've got a certain kind of presence when you're young, then what's available to you is character roles and the best character roles when you're young tend to be villains. And, also, it's fun to be bad and the only problem is often villain roles are devices and they lack a certain depth. They're signs, they're signals and after a little while you want something to chew on and if you function in a film it's the same too often. I think what happens is you develop a language that distances you from a certain kind of flashpoint of inspiration and creativity and you may refine that and that may be your work, but I'm not so interested in that. I think the best work comes when you're unsure, when you're terrified, when you're off balance.

Dafoe would go on to gain his widest exposure up to that point playing the compassionate Sergeant Elias in Oliver Stone's Platoon. He enjoyed the opportunity to play a heroic role, and said the film gave him a chance to display his versatility. "I think all characters live in you. You just frame them, give them circumstances, and that character will happen."

In 1988, Dafoe starred in another film set during the Vietnam War, this time as CID Agent Buck McGriff in Off Limits. He has since become a popular character actor. He is often cast as unstable or villainous characters, such as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man and Barillo in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Before that, he was briefly considered for the role of the Joker by Tim Burton and Sam Hamm for 1989's Batman. Hamm recalls "We thought, 'Well, Willem Dafoe looks just like The Joker.'" The role eventually went to Jack Nicholson.

Dafoe starred in the erotic drama Body of Evidence with Madonna. In 1991, he portrayed a Manhattan drug dealer in the Paul Schrader film Light Sleeper. Dafoe played an eccentric FBI agent in The Boondock Saints (1999) and a private investigator in American Psycho (2000). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1986 for Platoon and 2000 for Shadow of the Vampire. He played a rare heroic film role when he provided the voice of Gill in the animated film Finding Nemo. Dafoe also played a heroic leading man in Triumph of the Spirit, Salamo Arouch, a Greek Jew who survived Auschwitz concentration camp through his prowess as a boxer. In 1998 he played the brother of Nick Nolte and son of James Coburn in another Schrader film, Affliction.

He worked briefly as a model in a 1990 Prada campaign. In 2004, Dafoe lent his likeness and voice for the James Bond video game Everything or Nothing as the villain Nikolai Diavolo, and starred as NYPD detective Stan Aubray in the thriller Anamorph (2006). From 2002 to 2007, he played the villain Green Goblin in the Spider-Man trilogy. In 2007 he was also a member of the jury of the 57th Berlin International Film Festival. In 2011, Dafoe began narrating a series of television commercials for the Greek yogurt company Fage. Additionally, the actor is featured in Jim Beam's "Bold Decisions" television ad campaign, which began airing April 2011.

Dafoe starred alongside Marina Abramović and his A Family Man co-star Gretchen Mol in the 2011 Manchester International Festival premiere of the play The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, and played the role again in the 2013 Luminato Festival North American premiere of the play The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. He also appears at TimesTalks Luminato. Since 2010, Dafoe voiced Clarence the Birdseye polar bear mascot on the company's television commercials in the United Kingdom. Dafoe appeared as the devil in the Mercedes-Benz CLA 2013 Super Bowl ad in which Usher and Kate Upton also appear. Dafoe also starred in three short films for Hanneke Schutte, with Saving Norman winning the Jameson First Shot competition.

Dafoe played fictional author Peter Van Houten in the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars (2014). In April 2014, he was announced as a member of the main competition jury at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, Dafoe played and voiced Ryuk in Death Note, the American adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name. Also that year, he played scientist Nuidis Vulko in Zack Snyder's Justice League; co-starred as Gerhard Hardman in a film adaptation of Agatha Christie's detective novel Murder on the Orient Express, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh; and played Bobby Hicks in the drama The Florida Project, receiving Academy Award, Gotham Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for his performance.

Personal life

Dafoe met director Elizabeth LeCompte at The Performance Group, and the two began a professional and personal relationship there and at its successor company, The Wooster Group. Their son, Jack, was born in 1982.

Dafoe married Italian actress, director and screenwriter Giada Colagrande on March 25, 2005, a year after the two had met in Rome at the premiere of one of her films. Dafoe said in 2010, "We were having lunch and I said: 'Do you want to get married tomorrow?'" They did so the following afternoon at a small ceremony with two friends as witnesses. The two worked together on the film Before It Had a Name. The couple divide their time among Rome, New York City, and Los Angeles. He now holds both Italian and American citizenship.

Dafoe said in 2008 that he is no longer practicing vegetarianism. His brother, Donald Dafoe, is a transplant surgeon and researcher.

In June 2016, he stirred up controversy in Italy while visiting The Floating Piers on Lake Iseo. Dafoe was photographed on a section while thousands of people were denied access. The local press suggested the closure might have been orchestrated to allow Dafoe to enjoy the installation without the crowds.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1980 Heaven's Gate Willy Uncredited
1982 The Loveless Vance
1983 The Hunger Youth in Phone Booth
1984 New York Nights Punk Boyfriend
Streets of Fire Raven Shaddock
1985 Roadhouse 66 Johnny Harte
To Live and Die in L.A. Erick "Rick" Masters
1986 Platoon Sergeant Gordon Elias Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
1987 Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam Elephant Grass Voice
Documentary
1988 Off Limits Buck McGriff
The Last Temptation of Christ Jesus of Nazareth
Mississippi Burning Agent Alan Ward
1989 Triumph of the Spirit Salamo Arouch
Born on the Fourth of July Charlie
1990 Cry-Baby Hateful Guard Cameo
Wild at Heart Bobby Peru Nominated - Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
1991 Flight of the Intruder Lt. Cmdr. Virgil "Tiger" Cole
1992 Light Sleeper John LeTour Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor
White Sands Deputy Sheriff Ray Dolezal
1993 Body of Evidence Frank Dulaney
Faraway, So Close! Emit Flesti
1994 Tom & Viv T. S. Eliot
Clear and Present Danger John Clark
The Night and the Moment The Writer
1996 Victory Axel Heyst
Basquiat The Electrician
The English Patient David Caravaggio Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1997 Speed 2: Cruise Control John Geiger
Affliction Rolfe Whitehouse
1998 Lulu on the Bridge Dr. Van Horn
New Rose Hotel X
1999 Existenz Gas
The Boondock Saints Agent Paul Smecker
2000 American Psycho Donald Kimball
Animal Factory Earl Copen
Shadow of the Vampire Max Schreck Fantasporto's International Fantasy Film Award for Best Actor
Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival's President Award for Outstanding Creative Performance
Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Comedy or Musical
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Sitges Film Festival's Gran Angular Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Bullfighter Father Ramirez
2001 Pavilion of Women Father Andre
Edges of the Lord Priest
2002 Spider-Man Norman Osborn/Green Goblin New York Film Critics Online Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Fight
Auto Focus John Henry Carpenter Nominated - Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
2003 Finding Nemo Gill Voice
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Armando Barillo
The Reckoning Martin
2004 The Clearing Arnold Mack
Spider-Man 2 Norman Osborn Cameo
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Klaus Daimler Nominated - Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated - Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble
Control Dr. Michael Copeland
Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate Narrator Documentary
The Aviator Roland Sweet
2005 XXX: State of the Union General George Deckert
Manderlay Mr. Mulligan
Before It Had a Name Leslie
Ripley Under Ground Neil Murchison
2006 American Dreamz Chief of Staff
Inside Man Captain John Darius
Paris, je t'aime The Cowboy Segment: "Place des Victoires"
2007 The Walker Larry Lockner
Mr. Bean's Holiday Carson Clay
Spider-Man 3 Norman Osborn Cameo
Tales from Earthsea Cob English dub
Go Go Tales Ray Ruby
The Procedure Christopher Short film
Anamorph Stan Aubrey
2008 Fireflies in the Garden Charles Waechter
Adam Resurrected Commandant Klein
The Dust of Time A
2009 Antichrist He Bodil Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated - Robert Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Affaire Farewell Feeney
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? Detective Havenhurst
Daybreakers Lionel "Elvis" Cormac
Fantastic Mr. Fox Rat Voice
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day Paul Smecker Uncredited cameo
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Gavner Purl
2010 Miral Eddie
A Woman Max Oliver
2011 4:44 Last Day on Earth Cisco
The Hunter Martin David Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
2012 John Carter Tars Tarkas Voice and motion capture
Tomorrow You're Gone The Buddha
2013 Odd Thomas Wyatt Porter
Out of the Furnace John Petty
Nymphomaniac L
2014 A Most Wanted Man Tommy Brue
The Grand Budapest Hotel J.G. Jopling Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Bad Country Bud Carter
The Fault in Our Stars Peter Van Houten
Pasolini Pier Paolo Pasolini
John Wick Marcus
2016 My Hindu Friend Diego Fairman
Dog Eat Dog Mad Dog
Finding Dory Gill Voice
The Headhunter's Calling Ed Blackridge
Sculpt
The Great Wall Ballard
2017 Do Donkeys Act? Narrator Documentary
The Florida Project Bobby Hicks Atlanta Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
IndieWire Critics Poll for Best Supporting Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Online for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Seattle Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated - Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
What Happened to Monday Terrence Settman
Mountain Narrator Documentary
Death Note Ryuk Voice and motion capture
Murder on the Orient Express Gerhard Hardman
Opus Zero Paul
2018 Aquaman Nuidis Vulko Post-production
At Eternity's Gate Vincent Van Gogh Post-production
2019 Motherless Brooklyn Paul Randolph Filming

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1986 The Hitchhiker Jeffrey Hunt Episode: "Ghostwriter"
1991 Fishing with John Himself Segment: "Ice Fishing in Northern Maine"
1997 The Simpsons The Commandant (voice) Episode: "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson"
2010 American Experience Narrator (voice) Episode: "Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World"
2014 The Simpsons Mr Lassen (voice) Episode: "Blazed and Confused"
2017 Piigs Narrator Documentary

Video games

Year Title Role
2002 Spider-Man Norman Osborn / Green Goblin
2003 Finding Nemo Gill
2004 James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing Nikolai Diavolo
2013 Beyond: Two Souls Nathan Dawkins

Other awards and nominations

Camerimage

  • 2002: Won, Special Award (For immense contribution to the art of film.)

San Sebastián International Film Festival

  • 2005: Won, Donostia Award

Stockholm International Film Festival

  • 2012: Won, Stockholm Achievement Award

VGX (award show)

  • 2013: Nominated, Best Voice Actor (for Beyond: Two Souls)

NAVGTR Awards

  • 2013: Nominated, Supporting Performance in a Drama (for Beyond: Two Souls)

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

  • 2016: Won, Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema

Berlin International Film Festival

  • 2018: Awarded, Honorary Golden Bear of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, recognising his life’s work

[ Source: Wikipedia ]