Willem Dafoe

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Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe 2014 (cropped).jpg
Born(1955-07-22) July 22, 1955 (age 59)
Appleton, Wisconsin, U.S.
OccupationActor, voice actor
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Giada Colagrande (2005–present)
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Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe 2014 (cropped).jpg
Born(1955-07-22) July 22, 1955 (age 59)
Appleton, Wisconsin, U.S.
OccupationActor, voice actor
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Giada Colagrande (2005–present)

William J. Dafoe (born July 22, 1955), known professionally as Willem Dafoe, is an American film, stage, and voice actor, and a member of the experimental theater company The Wooster Group. Films he appears in include Platoon, Affliction, Off Limits, Streets of Fire, To Live and Die in L.A., Born on the Fourth of July, The English Patient, The Last Temptation of Christ, Mississippi Burning, Mr. Bean's Holiday, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Boondock Saints, Spider-Man, The Aviator, and The Fault in Our Stars. He has also had voice roles in both Fantastic Mr. Fox and Finding Nemo, as well as guesting on two episodes of The Simpsons. Recently, he provided the voice and motion capture for Nathan Dawkins in the 2013 video game Beyond: Two Souls with Ellen Page.

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

Early life and career[edit]

Dafoe was born William J. Dafoe 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] 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, and became romantically involved with the group's Elizabeth LeCompte, 11 years his senior and who, 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.[8]

Theater and film[edit]

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,[9] began his film career in 1981, when he was cast in Heaven's Gate[10] 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."[11]

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.[12]

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."[13]

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.[14]

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.[citation needed] 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.[15][16] Additionally, the actor is featured in Jim Beam's "Bold Decisions" television ad campaign, which began airing April 2011.[17]

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.[18][19]

Since 2010, Dafoe voiced Clarence the Birdseye polar bear mascot on the company's television commercials in the United Kingdom.[20]

Dafoe appeared as the Devil in the Mercedes-Benz CLA 2013 Super Bowl ad in which Usher and Kate Upton also appear.[21]

Dafoe also starred in three short films for Hanneke Schutte, with Saving Norman winning the Jameson First Shot competition.[22]

Dafoe played fictional author Peter Van Houten in the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars (2014).[23] In April 2014, he was announced as a member of the main competition jury at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Dafoe met director Elizabeth LeCompte at The Performance Group and began a professional and personal relationship there and at its successor company, the Wooster Group. Their son, Jack, was born in 1982.[25][26][27] 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.[25] The two worked together on the film Before It Had a Name.[25] The couple divide their time between Rome,[28] New York City, and Los Angeles.[25] He has dual Italian and American citizenship.[28]

Dafoe said in 2008 he is no longer a vegetarian.[29]

Dafoe's brother, Donald Dafoe, is a transplant surgeon and researcher.[30]



1980Heaven's GateUncredited
1982Loveless, TheThe LovelessVance
1983Hunger, TheThe Hunger2nd Phone Booth Youth
1984Roadhouse 66Johnny Harte
1984New York Nights[31]Boyfriend
1984Streets of FireRaven Shaddock
1985To Live and Die in L.A.Erick "Rick" Masters
1986PlatoonSergeant EliasNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
1988Off LimitsBuck McGriff
1988Last Temptation of Christ, TheThe Last Temptation of ChristJesus
1988Mississippi BurningAgent Alan Ward
1989Triumph of the SpiritSalamo Arouch
1989Born on the Fourth of JulyCharlie – Villa Dulce
1990Wild at HeartBobby PeruNominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
1991Flight of the IntruderLt. Cmdr. Virgil "Tiger" Cole
1992White SandsDeputy Sheriff Ray Dolezal
1992Light SleeperJohn LeTourSant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor
1993Body of EvidenceFrank DulaneyNominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
1993Faraway, So Close!Emit Flesti
1994Tom & VivTom Eliot
1994Clear and Present DangerJohn Clark
1995VictoryAxel Heyst
1995Night and the Moment, TheThe Night and the MomentThe Writer
1996BasquiatThe Electrician
1996English Patient, TheThe English PatientDavid CaravaggioNominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1997Speed 2: Cruise ControlJohn GeigerNominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
1997AfflictionRolfe Whitehouse
1998Lulu on the BridgeDr. Van Horn
1998New Rose HotelX
1999Boondock Saints, TheThe Boondock SaintsAgent Paul Smecker
2000American PsychoDet. Donald Kimball
2000Animal FactoryEarl Copen
2000Shadow of the VampireMax SchreckFantasporto'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 (3rd place)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (2nd place)
Nominated—Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor (2nd place)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
2000BullfighterFather Ramirez
2001Pavilion of WomenFather Andre
2001Edges of the LordPriest
2002Spider-ManGreen Goblin/Norman OsbornNominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
2002Auto FocusJohn Henry CarpenterNominated—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 (3rd place)
2002Journey on RioJulio, Imaginary FriendVoice
2003Finding NemoGillVoice
2003Reckoning, TheThe ReckoningMartin
2003Once Upon a Time in MexicoArmando Barillo
2003Camel Cricket CityCamel CricketVoice
Short film
2004Clearing, TheThe ClearingArnold Mack
2004Spider-Man 2Green Goblin/Norman OsbornCameo
2004Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, TheThe Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouKlaus DaimlerNominated—Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble Cast (2nd place)
Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
2004ControlDr. Michael CopelandDirect-to-video
2004Aviator, TheThe AviatorRoland Sweet
2005xXx: State of the UnionGeneral George Deckert
2005ManderlayGrace's Father
2005Before It Had a NameLeslieThe Black Widow in the United States
2005Ripley Under GroundNeil Murchison
2006American DreamzChief of Staff
2006Inside ManCapt. John Darius
2006Tales from EarthseaCobVoice – English version
2006Paris, je t'aimeThe CowboySegment: "Place des Victoires"
2007Walker, TheThe WalkerSenator Larry Lockner
2007Mr. Bean's HolidayCarson Clay
2007Spider-Man 3Green Goblin/Norman OsbornCameo; also uncredited extra
2007Go Go TalesRay Ruby
2007AnamorphDet. Stan Aubrey
2008Fireflies in the GardenCharles Waechter
2008Adam ResurrectedCommandant Klein
2008Dust of Time, TheThe Dust of TimeA.
2009AntichristHeBodil Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated—Robert Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
2009Fantastic Mr. FoxRatVoice
2009Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's AssistantGavner Purl
2009Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, TheThe Boondock Saints II: All Saints DayPaul SmeckerCameo
2009My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?Detective Havenhurst
2009L'affaire FarewellFeeney
2011Hunter, TheThe HunterMartin DavidNominated—AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
20114:44 Last Day on EarthCisco
2012John CarterTars TarkasVia performance capture and voice acting
2012Tomorrow You're GoneThe Buddha
2013Odd ThomasWyatt Porter
2013A WomanMax Oliver
2013Out of the FurnaceJohn Petty
2014A Most Wanted ManTommy Brue
2014The Grand Budapest HotelJ.G. Jopling
2014Whiskey BayBud Carter
2014The Fault in Our StarsPeter Van Houten
2014John WickMarcus
2015PasoliniPier Paolo PasoliniFilming
2016Finding DoryGillVoice


1985Murder, She Wrote"Murder in the Afternoon"
1986Hitchhiker, TheThe HitchhikerJeffrey Hunt"Ghostwriter"
1991Fishing With JohnHimselfSegment: "Ice Fishing in Northern Maine"
1997, 2014Simpsons, TheThe SimpsonsThe Commandant, Mr. LassenVoice
"The Secret War of Lisa Simpson", "Blazed and Confused"
2010American ExperienceNarratorInto the Deep: American, Whaling & the World

Video games[edit]

2002Spider-ManGreen Goblin / Norman Osborn
2004James Bond 007: Everything or NothingNikolai DiavoloBoth voice and likeness
2013Beyond: Two SoulsNathan Dawkinsvoice, likeness, and performance capture

Other awards and nominations[edit]


San Sebastian International Film Festival

Stockholm International Film Festival

VGX (award show)


  1. ^ a b Marx, Rebecca Flint. "Willem Dafoe". All Movie Guide via The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Willem Dafoe". Britannica.com. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Dafoe". Ancestry.com public page. Archived from the original on November 20, 2009. 
  4. ^ Isaac, Sara (August 12, 1988). "Actor Dafoe's Orlando Parents Support 'Last Temptation' Role". Orlando Sentinel (Florida). Archived from the original on Februyar 7, 2012.  Check date values in: |archivedate= (help)
  5. ^ Dafoe, Willem (November 21, 2009). "What I Know about Women". The Observer (UK). Archived from the original on November 26, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Bromberg, Craig. "Wild at Heart". New York: 39. 
  7. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000353/bio
  8. ^ Bromberg, p. 40
  9. ^ "Mr Bean's Holiday - Willem Dafoe interview". IndieLondon.co.uk. 2007 (date n.a.). Archived from the original on January 23, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ "Spalding Gray's Tortured Soul". The New York Times Magazine: p. 5 of online version. October 6, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Willem Dafoe Fired from 'Heaven's Gate' Role". WENN via ATPictures.com. January 8, 2010. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Willem Dafoe". UK: (Interview), The Guardian. November 8, 1998. Archived from the original on May 1, 2010. 
  13. ^ Morra, Louis (Spring 1987). "Willem Dafoe". Bomb (19). 
  14. ^ Batman Movie Online
  15. ^ Murg, Stephanie (March 10, 2011). "Mullen Makes Mouths Water, Eyes Widen with Mesmerizing Yogurt Commercial". Mediabistro.com. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  16. ^ Chapman, Mike (March 4, 2011). "Fage, 'Plain Extraordinary'". Adweek. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Time Magazine Recognizes Jim Beam TV Commercial as One of Top 10 Ads of 2011". James B. Beam Distilling Company press release via PRNewswire.com. December 20, 2011. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  18. ^ Youngs, Ian (7 July 2011). "Marina Abramovic stages life and death". BBC News. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  19. ^ Dorment, Richard (11 July 2011). "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovich, Manchester International Festival, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  20. ^ Sweney, Mark (May 10, 2010). "Willem Dafoe voices Birds Eye ad". The Guardian (UK). 
  21. ^ Devilish Willem Dafoe Joins Kate Upton, Usher in Mercedes Super Bowl Ad, Adweek.com, January 30, 2013
  22. ^ "Saving Norman by Hanneke Schutte". Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  23. ^ Twitter / JoshBooneMovies: One of my favorite actors. Twitter.com. Retrieved on 2014-01-14.
  24. ^ "The Jury of the 67th Festival de Cannes". Cannes. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c d "Willem and Giada Dafoe". English-language website of Vogue Italia. March 4, 2010. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  26. ^ Spalding Gray (20 October 2011). "Spalding Gray on Hollywood, Writing, and Willem Dafoe". Slate. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  27. ^ "Willem Dafoe - Dafoe Trades Old Love For Young New Flame". Contactmusic. 2 March 2004. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  28. ^ a b "Willem Dafoe: 'Don't make this into a crackpot profile, please'". Guardian. June 17, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Willem Dafoe Is No Longer A Vegetarian", Starpulse.com, April 16, 2008
  30. ^ "Pancreas Transplant Director Donald Dafoe Joins Cedars-Sinai". Cedars-Sinai Medical Center press release via Newswise.com. May 13, 2005. Archived from the original on December 9, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Willem Dafoe Fandango filmography". Online database. Fandango. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 

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