Willem Dafoe

Creative concept and on-set art direction for the Mr Porter The Journal. Read an abstract from the article, below:

Willem Dafoe doesn’t look or sound like, well… “Like a normal person?” he yells. Two laugh lines, as deep as a ventriloquist dummy’s, frame the question. His grin is wicked, mouth wide as he pulls his extraordinary face closer to mine. “Say it!” Mr Dafoe demands, cackling. He’s in a seated lunge as we chat, his right knee hovering a few inches off the ground as he explains why he’s here, in a room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Toronto, speculating about his normality.

“I use these interviews sometimes to – it’s really stupid – but to see how I feel,” says Mr Dafoe. He smiles, but his eyebrows travel upwards, as if distancing themselves from the earnestness of his statement. “I try to articulate really deeply why I do what I do and put it out there so I can look at it and say, ‘Is that true or not?’”

What Mr Dafoe puts out there – on screen, at least – is defined by a sense of controlled menace. Even if one of his characters is as chaotically benevolent as Mr Dafoe seems to be in real life, it tends to feel impermanent. Like, at any moment, as Mr Dafoe puts it, with a creeping smile, “I could be bad.”

This delightfully unsettling energy has earned him four Oscar nominations, for his work in Platoon, Shadow Of A Vampire, The Florida Project and At Eternity’s Gate. It’s made for striking renditions of a stump-toothed psychopath (Mr David Lynch’s Wild At Heart) and God’s only son (Mr Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ). It’s been channelled in three Mr Wes Anderson movies (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel, plus the upcoming The French Dispatch). It’s earned large pay cheques in two superhero franchises (Spider-Man and Aquaman.)

It’s also present in Mr Dafoe’s two new – suitably weird – roles in movies that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is where we meet. There is Mr Rob Eggers’ brilliant black-and-white two-character psychosexual movie The Lighthouse, in which Mr Robert Pattinson and Mr Dafoe portray lighthouse keepers who can’t decide if they want to kiss or kill each other.
And then there’s a supporting role in Motherless Brooklyn, Mr Edward Norton’s 20-years-in-the-making adaptation of the noir novel by Mr Jonathan Lethem. (Mr Norton optioned the novel before the release of his directorial debut, the 2000 romantic comedy Keeping The Faith, and began developing the film in 2014.)

Read the full article here.

Photography by Tom Craig

Styling by Dan May

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