William "Willem" Dafoe (born July 22, 1955) is an American film and stage actor, and a founding member of the experimental theatre company The Wooster Group. He is known for his iconic face and voice. He has had an illustrious career including roles in To Live and Die in L.A., Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, The Last Temptation of Christ, Mississippi Burning, Wild at Heart, The Boondock Saints, Inside Man, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Spider-Man, Antichrist, and voice roles in Fantastic Mr. Fox and Finding Nemo.
Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, the sixth of eight children of Muriel Isabel (née Sprissler), a nurse and Boston native, and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe, a surgeon. His birth name is William Dafoe; he changed it to "Willem", the way his Scottish childhood babysitter pronounced his name, so people would not call him "Billy". He studied drama at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, but left before graduation in order to join the newly formed avant-garde group Theatre X.
After touring with Theatre X for four years in the United States and Europe, he moved to New York City and joined the Performance Group. Dafoe's film career began in 1981, when he was cast in Heaven's Gate, but his role was removed from the film during editing. In the mid 80's he was cast by William Friedkin to star in To Live And Die In LA, in which Dafoe portrays counterfeiter Rick Masters. A year later he starred as the leader of a motorcycle gang in The Loveless (and later played a similar role in Streets of Fire), but his first breakthrough film role was as the compassionate Sergeant Elias in Platoon (1986). In 1988 Dafoe starred in another movie 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 the Spider-Man film series 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 ended up going to Jack Nicholson. However, Dafoe also faced challenges of being typecasted to playing villanous roles. When he played Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), he remarked "To this day, I can't believe I was so brazen to think I could pull off the Jesus role", though Dafoe received acclaim despite the controversy surrounding the film.
He starred in the erotic drama Body of Evidence with Madonna. In 1991, Willem Dafoe portrayed a Manhattan drug dealer in the film Light Sleeper. This film received very good reviews by both critics and fans. 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 movie Finding Nemo.
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 villain Nikolai Diavolo. In 2006, he played NYPD detective Stan Aubray on the hunt for a serial killer, the lead in New York-set thriller Anamorph, opposite Scott Speedman and Peter Stormare. He stars alongside Rowan Atkinson in the sequel to 1997's Bean, Mr. Bean's Holiday which was released worldwide March 30, 2007.
Dafoe met director Elizabeth LeCompte at the Performance Group. LeCompte and Dafoe were part of the restructuring of The Performance Group and became professional collaborators and founding members of The Wooster Group, and began a relationship. Their son, Jack, was born in 1982. The pair eventually split in 2004. Dafoe married Italian director and actress Giada Colagrande on March 25, 2005. Dafoe spends most of his time living in Italy with Colagrande.
Dafoe's brother, Donald, is a transplant surgeon and researcher.
Awards and nominations
- 1986: Nominated, "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" – Platoon
- 2000: Nominated, "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2001: Won, "Best Supporting Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2005: Nominated, "Best Acting Ensemble" – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (shared w/co-stars)
- 2002: Won, "Special Award:For immense contribution to the art of film."
- 2001: Nominated, "Best Supporting Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2003: Nominated, "Best Supporting Actor" – Auto Focus
- 2002: Nominated, "Best Supporting Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2001: Won, "Best Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
- 2000: Won, "Outstanding Creative Performance" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2001: Nominated, "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 1987: Nominated, "Best Male Lead" – Platoon
- 1991: Nominated, "Best Supporting Male" – Wild at Heart
- 2001: Won, "Best Supporting Male" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2000: Won, "Best Supporting Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2003: Nominated, "Best Villain" – Spider-Man
MTV Movie Awards, Mexico
- 2004: Nominated, "Most Divine Miracle in a Movie" – The Last Temptation of Christ
- 2001: Nominated, "Best Supporting Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2001: Won, "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 1994: Nominated, "Worst Actor" – Body of Evidence
- 1998: Nominated, "Worst Supporting Actor" – Speed 2: Cruise Control
Sant Jordi Awards
- 1995: Won, "Best Foreign Actor" – Light Sleeper
- 2001: Won, "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Comedy or Musical" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 1997: Nominated, "Outstanding Performance by a Cast" – The English Patient (shared w/co-stars)
- 2001: Nominated, "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role" – Shadow of the Vampire
Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival
- 2000: Won, "Best Actor" – Shadow of the Vampire
- 2005: Won, Donostia Award
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- Willem Dafoe at TV.com
- Willem Dafoe Biography
- Interview with Willem Dafoe
- The Onion A.V. Club interview
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