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Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe

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Also Known As: William J Dafoe Died:
Born: July 22, 1955 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Appleton, Wisconsin, USA Profession: actor, voice actor, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After his attention-grabbing performance as a vicious counterfeiter in "To Live and Die in L.A." (1985), actor Willem Dafoe soared to stardom and earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor in the Academy Award-winning "Platoon" (1986). Prior to that performance, Dafoe used his menacing features and languid delivery to create an air of intensity for a succession of roles as toughs and villains, including in "The Loveless" (1981) and "Roadhouse 66" (1984). Following his breakthrough, however, the actor delivered a string of compelling performances, and even courted controversy as Jesus in "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988). Throughout his entire career, Dafoe moved easily between showy character turns like a hard-drinking paraplegic in "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) and leading roles like T.S. Eliot in "Tom & Viv" (1994). Occasionally, he turned on the camp to play over-the-top villains in "Speed 2: Cruise Control" (1997) and the "Spider-Man" series. But he also turned in high-caliber performances, as he did playing German actor Max Schreck in "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), which showcased the wealth of talent he had displayed throughout his varied career. ...

After his attention-grabbing performance as a vicious counterfeiter in "To Live and Die in L.A." (1985), actor Willem Dafoe soared to stardom and earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor in the Academy Award-winning "Platoon" (1986). Prior to that performance, Dafoe used his menacing features and languid delivery to create an air of intensity for a succession of roles as toughs and villains, including in "The Loveless" (1981) and "Roadhouse 66" (1984). Following his breakthrough, however, the actor delivered a string of compelling performances, and even courted controversy as Jesus in "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988). Throughout his entire career, Dafoe moved easily between showy character turns like a hard-drinking paraplegic in "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) and leading roles like T.S. Eliot in "Tom & Viv" (1994). Occasionally, he turned on the camp to play over-the-top villains in "Speed 2: Cruise Control" (1997) and the "Spider-Man" series. But he also turned in high-caliber performances, as he did playing German actor Max Schreck in "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), which showcased the wealth of talent he had displayed throughout his varied career.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Wild Bunch, The (2016)
2.
3.
 Bad Country (2014)
6.
8.
9.
10.
 Odd Thomas (2013)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Joined experimental theater group Theatre X in Milwaukee, WI
:
Toured the U.S. and Europe for two years with Theatre X productions "Offending the Audience," "Phaedre," and "Razor Blades"
1977:
Moved to New York City
:
Joined Wooster Group; debut performance in "Nayatt School"
1981:
Film acting debut, starred as a biker-poet in Kathryn Bigelow's "The Loveless"
1984:
Donned leather again for Walter Hill's oddball rock'n'roll picture "Streets of Fire"
1985:
Performance as homicidal counterfeiter in William Friedkin's "To Live and Die on L.A." caught attention of Oliver Stone
1986:
Breakthrough film role, Sgt. Elias,in Stone's "Platoon"; garnered Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination
1988:
Starred as Jesus in Martin Scorsese's controversial "The Last Temptation of Christ"
1988:
Teamed with Gene Hackman as FBI agents in Alan Parker's "Mississippi Burning"
1990:
Played psycho Bobby Peru in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart"
:
Appeared in print ads as model for Prada
1993:
Co-starred with Madonna in the erotic thriller "Body of Evidence"
1994:
Starred opposite Miranda Richardson in "Tom and Viv," portraying American-born British writer T. S. Eliot
1994:
Portrayed a soldier in Tom Clancy's "Clear and Present Danger"
1996:
Appeared as the mercernary Caravaggio in the Academy Award-winning Best Picture "The English Patient"
1997:
Returned to the stage to play Yank in Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape" for the Wooster Group's uptown experiment
1997:
Cast as principal villain in Jan De Bont's disappointing sequel "Speed 2: Cruise Control"
1997:
Portrayed Nick Nolte's successful brother in "Affliction"
1998:
Delivered a villainous turn as an anthropologist in the festival screened "Lulu on the Bridge"
1998:
Cast as Christopher Walken's mysterious sidekick in Abel Ferrara's "New Rose Hotel"
:
Began doing voiceovers for TV commercials
1999:
Had cameo role as a menacing gas station attendent in David Cronenberg's visually intriguing if muddily plotted "eXistenZ"
1999:
Acted in the Wooster Group's production of "North Atlantic"
2000:
Delivered curiously eccentric turn as a gay FBI agent in the little-seen "Boondock Saints"
2000:
Portrayed the detective investigating the disappearance of a Wall Street broker in "American Psycho"
2000:
Received critical plaudits for his slightly over-the-top portrayal of Max Schreck in the fictionalized account of the making of the classic vampire film "Nosferatu" (1922) in "Shadow of the Vampire"; earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination
2001:
Played an American missionary who falls in love with a Chinese woman in "Pavilion of Women"
2002:
Co-starred with Frances McDormand in "To You, the Birdie!," a stage adaptation of "Phedre" performed by the Wooster Group
2002:
Cast as the villainous Green Goblin in "Spider-Man"
2002:
Played the accused killer of Bob Crane in "Autofocus"
2003:
Co-starred in the feature "Once Upon A Time In Mexico"
2004:
Starred opposite Paul Bettany in "The Reckoning"
2004:
Again portrayed Green Goblin/Norman Osborn in "Spider-Man 2"
2004:
Starred opposite Robert Redford in the thriller "The Clearing"
2004:
Cast opposite Bill Murray in Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"
2006:
Starred in "Manderlay," the second part to Lars von Trier's U.S.A. trilogy
2006:
Co-starred with Denzel Washington in the Spike Lee directed hostage drama "Inside Man"
2008:
Played a detective in the independent feature "Anamorph"
2009:
Cast in the Public Theater's world premiere of "Idiot Savant"
2009:
Cast as vampire Gavner Purl in the feature adaptation "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant"
2009:
Voiced the Rat in Wes Anderson's animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl book "Fantastic Mr. Fox"
2010:
Cast as Elvis, a 'cured' vampire, in the sci-fi film "Daybreakers"
2012:
Co-starred with Taylor Kitsch in sci-fi Western "John Carter"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Appleton East High School: Appleton , Wisconsin -
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Milwaukee , Wisconsin -

Notes

"Shadow of the Vampire" screenwriter Steven Katz wrote the role of Max Schreck expressly for Willem Dafoe. As he explained in the press notes for the film, "He just had this quality, a mixture of the incredibly frightening and threatening with an erotic charge too that I thought was perfect for the part."

"Weirdness is not my game. I'm just a square boy from Wisconsin."---Willem Dafoe

On creating the character of Max Schreck for "Shadow of the Vampire", Dafoe was quoted in the press notes as saying; "The most important research tool was the footage. The only thing I could find out about Max was that a biographer of Murnau said he was 'an actor of no distinction.' But the script was very strong, and we had the actual "Nosferatu" film as a kind of touchstone and base. So much had to wait until I got into the prosthetic make-up. I didn't just have extreme make-up, but also a costume that was restricting. The shoes made me walk a particular way. The padding in the clothes also made me walk a particular way. It was great because it's a huge mask which frees you up so much."

"I kind of bristle when people admire my work downtown and then wink at me and say, 'Hey, you got a good gig in that movie, run with it baby, make some bucks.' The truth is... it's all the same. The functions and the demands are different, but on some level, it's all performing... I refuse to say that 'Clear and Present Danger' is any less artful than 'Last Temptation'... I only do work that for some reason I'm excited or curious about. I've been around long enough that I don't do anything for the money, or for the nice trailer, or for the perk of being in a big movie. ... Everything has its price... I don't get paid $7 million for the movies I do, and when I'm top banana, they're not big studio movies... I see Harrison [Ford], and it might sound suspicious, but I wouldn't want to be him. He can't do things that I can do. I can switch hit, I can go and make a small movie, I can make a big movie. I've got some flexibility."---Dafoe quoted to Newsday August 9, 1994.

"I don't work with so many people who impress me with the way they live their life and do their work, and he [Dafoe] does. He seems to me to be very easy going. He's rather well balanced."---John Malkovich on Willem Dafoe to Biography July 2002.

"There's a little bit of 'What have I done?' in the sense that I've never made movies that kids could see. I'm starting to anticipate the day that I'm in the grocery store and a little kid says, 'Mommy! The Green Goblin!' Nothing like that has ever happened to me."---Dafoe to Prevue Magazine 2002.

"Let's face it. When [casting] agents are looking for a guy-next-door type they don't think of me unless the character lives next door to a mausoleum."---Dafoe to Calgary SunMay 1, 2002.

"What keeps you alive as an actor is your ability to apply yourself to something that you're curious about, and to fall in love with it. I don't think of acting as an interpretive art. I think it's an invitation to become something."---Dafoe to Venice, December 2004/January 2005.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Elizabeth LeCompte. Theater company director. Born c. 1945; member and director of the Wooster Group; awarded a MacArthur grant in 1995 for $310,000; no longer together as of March 2004.

Family close complete family listing

father:
William Dafoe. Doctor.
son:
Jack Dafoe. Born c. 1982; mother, Elizabeth LeCompte.

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