World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Willem Dafoe

Article Id: WHEBN0000213237
Reproduction Date:

Title: Willem Dafoe  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Platoon (film), Shadow of the Vampire, The Hunter (2011 Australian film), Abel Ferrara, 2000 in film
Collection: 1955 Births, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, American Expatriates in Italy, American Male Film Actors, American Male Models, American Male Voice Actors, American People of English Descent, American People of French-Canadian Descent, American People of German Descent, American People of Irish Descent, American People of Scottish Descent, American People of Swiss Descent, Bodil Award Winners, Independent Spirit Award Winners, Living People, Male Actors from Wisconsin, People from Appleton, Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin–milwaukee Alumni
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe
Dafoe at the premiere of The Hunter in Sydney, Australia, 2011
Born (1955-07-22) July 22, 1955
Appleton, Wisconsin, U.S.
Occupation Actor, voice actor, model
Years active 1980–present
Spouse(s) Elizabeth LeCompte
Giada Colagrande
Children 1

William J. "Willem" Dafoe (born July 22, 1955) is an American actor, voice actor and model.

He is a member of the experimental theater company The Wooster Group and he has appeared in films such as Platoon, Shadow of the Vampire, The Last Temptation of Christ, and in the 2000s' Spider-Man trilogy. Dafoe has had voice roles in Fantastic Mr. Fox and Finding Nemo, as well as two episodes of The Simpsons. He also provided the voice and motion capture for Nathan Dawkins in the 2013 video game Beyond: Two Souls.

He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice: for Platoon in 1986 and Shadow of the Vampire in 2000.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Film 4.1
    • Television 4.2
    • Video games 4.3
  • Other awards and nominations 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin.[1][2] One of seven children of Muriel Isabel (née Sprissler)[3] and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe,[3][4] 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."[5] In high school, he acquired the nickname Willem.[6] His father's ancestry is French-Canadian, Swiss, and English, and his mother's ancestry is German, Irish, and Scottish.[3][7]

He was once expelled from high school for shooting a pornographic film.[8]

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 City in 1976.[6] 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, 11 years his senior. She, with her former romantic partner Spalding Gray and others, edged out Schechner and created the Wooster Group.[6] Within a year Dafoe was part of the company.[9]


Hafsat Abiola, Dafoe and Bianca Jagger at the dropping knowledge's Table of Free Voices at Bebelplatz, Berlin, in September 2006

Dafoe, who would continue with the Wooster Group into the 2000s,[10] began his film career in 1981, when he was cast in Heaven's Gate[11] only to see his role removed from the film during editing.[1] 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."[12]

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. A year later he starred as the leader of a motorcycle gang in The Loveless, having played a similar role in Streets of Fire. 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.[13]

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."[14]

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.[15]

He starred in the erotic drama Body of Evidence with Madonna. In 1991, Dafoe 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, playing a Greek Jew, Salamo Arouch, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau through his prowess as a boxer. In 1998 he was 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 2002-2007, 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.[16][17] Additionally, the actor is featured in Jim Beam's "Bold Decisions" television ad campaign, which began airing April 2011.[18]

Dafoe starred alongside Marina Abramović in the 2011 Manchester International Festival premiere of the play The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, and will play 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.[19][20]

Since 2010, Dafoe voiced Clarence the Birdseye polar bear mascot on the company's television commercials in the United Kingdom.[21]

Dafoe appeared as the Devil in the Mercedes-Benz CLA 2013 Super Bowl ad in which Usher and Kate Upton also appear.[22]

Dafoe also starred in three short films for Hanneke Schutte, with Saving Norman winning the Jameson First Shot competition.[23]

Dafoe played fictional author Peter Van Houten in the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars (2014).[24] In April 2014, he was announced as a member of the main competition jury at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[25]

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.[26][27][28]

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.[26] The two worked together on the film Before It Had a Name.[26] The couple divide their time between Rome,[29] New York City, and Los Angeles.[26] He now holds both Italian and American citizenship.[29]

Dafoe said in 2008 that he is no longer a vegetarian.[30] His brother, Donald Dafoe, is a transplant surgeon and researcher.[31]



Year Title Role Notes
1979 Sixteen John Benjamin Williamson Children's animated live-action film
1980 Heaven's Gate Uncredited
1982 Loveless, TheThe Loveless Vance
1983 Hunger, TheThe Hunger 2nd Phone Booth Youth
1984 Roadhouse 66 Johnny Harte
New York Nights Boyfriend[32]
Streets of Fire Raven Shaddock
1985 To Live and Die in L.A. Erick "Rick" Masters
1986 Platoon Sergeant Elias Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
1988 Off Limits Buck McGriff
Last Temptation of Christ, TheThe Last Temptation of Christ Jesus
Mississippi Burning Agent Alan Ward
1989 Triumph of the Spirit Salamo Arouch
Born on the Fourth of July Charlie
1990 Cry-Baby 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 White Sands Deputy Sheriff Ray Dolezal
Light Sleeper John LeTour Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor
1993 Body of Evidence Frank Dulaney Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
Faraway, So Close! Emit Flesti
1994 Tom & Viv Tom Eliot
Clear and Present Danger John Clark
1995 Victory Axel Heyst
Night and the Moment, TheThe Night and the Moment The Writer
1996 Basquiat The Electrician
English Patient, TheThe 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 Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
Affliction Rolfe Whitehouse
1998 Lulu on the Bridge Dr. Van Horn
New Rose Hotel X
1999 eXistenZ Gas
Boondock Saints, TheThe Boondock Saints Agent Paul Smecker
2000 American Psycho Det. 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 Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
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
Journey on Rio Julio, Imaginary Friend Voice
2003 Finding Nemo Gill Voice
Reckoning, TheThe Reckoning Martin
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Armando Barillo
Camel Cricket City Camel Cricket Voice
Short film
2004 Clearing, TheThe Clearing Arnold Mack
Spider-Man 2 Norman Osborn / Green Goblin Cameo
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, TheThe Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Klaus Daimler Nominated—Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Control Dr. Michael Copeland Direct-to-video
Aviator, TheThe Aviator Roland Sweet
2005 xXx: State of the Union General George Deckert
Manderlay Grace's Father
Before It Had a Name Leslie The Black Widow in the United States
Ripley Under Ground Neil Murchison
2006 American Dreamz Chief of Staff
Inside Man Capt. John Darius
Tales from Earthsea Cob Voice – English version
Paris, je t'aime The Cowboy Segment: "Place des Victoires"
2007 Walker, TheThe Walker Senator Larry Lockner
Mr. Bean's Holiday Carson Clay
Spider-Man 3 Norman Osborn / Green Goblin Cameo
Go Go Tales Ray Ruby
Anamorph Det. Stan Aubrey
2008 Fireflies in the Garden Charles Waechter
Adam Resurrected Commandant Klein
Dust of Time, TheThe 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
Fantastic Mr. Fox Rat Voice
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Gavner Purl
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, TheThe Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day Paul Smecker Cameo
Daybreakers Elvis
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? Detective Havenhurst
L'affaire Farewell Feeney
2010 Miral Eddie
2011 Hunter, TheThe Hunter Martin David Nominated—AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
4:44 Last Day on Earth Cisco
2012 John Carter Tars Tarkas Voice and motion capture
Tomorrow You're Gone The Buddha
2013 Odd Thomas Wyatt Porter
A Woman Max Oliver
Out of the Furnace John Petty
2014 A Most Wanted Man Tommy Brue
Nymphomaniac L
The Grand Budapest Hotel J.G. Jopling
Bad Country Bud Carter
The Fault in Our Stars Peter Van Houten
John Wick Marcus
2015 Pasolini Pier Paolo Pasolini
2016 Finding Dory Gill Voice
The Great Wall Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Murder, She Wrote Episode: "Murder in the Afternoon"
1986 Hitchhiker, TheThe Hitchhiker Jeffrey Hunt Episode: "Ghostwriter"
1991 Fishing With John Himself Segment: "Ice Fishing in Northern Maine"
Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons The Commandant (Voice)
Mr. Lassen (Voice)
Episode: "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson" (S08E25)
Episode: "Blazed and Confused" (S26E07)
2010 American Experience Narrator Episode: "Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World"

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2002 Spider-Man Norman Osborn / Green Goblin Voice
2004 James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing Nikolai Diavolo Voice
2013 Beyond: Two Souls Nathan Dawkins Voice and motion capture

Other awards and nominations


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

San Sebastian International Film Festival

Stockholm International Film Festival

  • 2012: Won, Stockholm Achievement Award

VGX (award show)

  • 2013: Nominated, Best Voice Actor


  1. ^ a b Marx, Rebecca Flint. "Willem Dafoe".  
  2. ^ "Willem Dafoe". Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Dafoe".  
  4. ^ Isaac, Sara (August 12, 1988). "Actor Dafoe's Orlando Parents Support 'Last Temptation' Role".  
  5. ^ Dafoe, Willem (November 21, 2009). "What I Know about Women".  
  6. ^ a b c Bromberg, Craig. "Wild at Heart".  
  7. ^
  8. ^ Witcher, Rosamund (November 22, 2009). "What I know about women". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved March 8, 2015. 
  9. ^ Bromberg, p. 40
  10. ^ "Mr Bean's Holiday - Willem Dafoe interview". 2007 (date n.a.). Archived from the original on January 23, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Spalding Gray's Tortured Soul".  
  12. ^ "Willem Dafoe Fired from 'Heaven's Gate' Role".  
  13. ^ "Willem Dafoe".  
  14. ^ Morra, Louis (Spring 1987). "Willem Dafoe".  
  15. ^ Batman Movie Online
  16. ^ Murg, Stephanie (March 10, 2011). "Mullen Makes Mouths Water, Eyes Widen with Mesmerizing Yogurt Commercial".  
  17. ^ Chapman, Mike (March 4, 2011). "'"Fage, 'Plain Extraordinary.  
  18. ^ Magazine Recognizes Jim Beam TV Commercial as One of Top 10 Ads of 2011"Time".  
  19. ^ Youngs, Ian (7 July 2011). "Marina Abramovic stages life and death". BBC News. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  20. ^ Dorment, Richard (11 July 2011). "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovich, Manchester International Festival, review".  
  21. ^ Sweney, Mark (May 10, 2010). "Willem Dafoe voices Birds Eye ad".  
  22. ^ Devilish Willem Dafoe Joins Kate Upton, Usher in Mercedes Super Bowl Ad,, January 30, 2013
  23. ^ "Saving Norman by Hanneke Schutte". Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  24. ^ Twitter / JoshBooneMovies: One of my favorite actors. Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  25. ^ "The Jury of the 67th Festival de Cannes". Cannes. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  26. ^ a b c d "Willem and Giada Dafoe". English-language website of  
  27. ^ Spalding Gray (20 October 2011). "Spalding Gray on Hollywood, Writing, and Willem Dafoe".  
  28. ^ "Willem Dafoe - Dafoe Trades Old Love For Young New Flame".  
  29. ^ a b "'"Willem Dafoe: 'Don't make this into a crackpot profile, please. Guardian. June 17, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Willem Dafoe Is No Longer A Vegetarian",, April 16, 2008
  31. ^ "Pancreas Transplant Director Donald Dafoe Joins Cedars-Sinai".  
  32. ^ "Willem Dafoe Fandango filmography". Online database. Fandango. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 

External links

  • Willem Dafoe at the Internet Movie Database
  • Willem Dafoe at AllMovie
  • Willem Dafoe Biography
  • The Onion A.V. Club interview
  • Oney, Steve (December 3, 1989). "FILM; Willem Dafoe, Looking for Characters With Possibility".  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.