“I set myself challenges every time I work. I approach everything as though it's the first time. With a beginner's mind and an amateur's love."
Willem Dafoe was born in 1955 in Appleton (Wisconsin) into a family of seven brothers and sisters. Having studied at university, he moved to New York with the firm determination to become an actor in theatre, his great passion. He was one of the original members of The Wooster Group, the New York based experimental theatre collective and one of the most groundbreaking and prestigious in the city, where he has created and performed in all the group’s works from 1977 to 2004, both in the U.S. and abroad.
He caught the attention of cinema and landed a small – uncredited! – part in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, leading the way to his appearance in other movies : Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire, or William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A., until getting his big break in Oliver Stone’s Platoon. He was later exalted for his personal embodiment of Jesus Christ in Martin Scorsese’s controversial movie The Last Temptation of Christ.
Willem Dafoe is a two time Academy Award nominated actor and has appeared in over 100 films. He doesn’t balk at combining starring parts with smaller comedies. Or at alternating movie genres. Thanks to his extraordinary ductility as an actor, he became the green-shaded baddie in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, the screen vampire in Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire, Caravaggio the accuser in Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient, or the hateful guard in John Waters’ Cry-Baby. He has made a movie name for himself in works like Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, Paul Auster’s Lulu on the Bridge, Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat; David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Mark Peploe’s Victory and Lars von Trier’s Manderlay… among others.
Recent films include Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini, Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac as well as the upcoming Hector Babenco’s My Hindu Friend and Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall.
He also appeared internationally on stage in Bob Wilson’s Life and Death of Marina Abramovic and alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov in Bob Wilson’s The Old Woman.
1986 Platoon Oliver Stone
1988 The Last Temptation of Christ (La Dernière Tentation du Christ) Martin Scorsese
1989 Born on the Fourth of July (Né un 4 juillet) Oliver Stone
1990 Cry-Baby John Waters
FARAWAY, SO CLOSE! (Si loin, si proche! – In weiter Ferne, so nah!) Wim Wenders
1994 Clear and Present Danger (Danger immédiat) Phillip Noyce
Speed 2: Cruise Control (Speed 2: Cap sur le danger) Jan de Bont
1998 Lulu on the Bridge Paul Auster
1999 EXISTENZ David Cronenberg
The Boondock Saints (Les Anges de Boston) Troy Duffy
Pavilion of Women (Pavillon de femmes) Ho Yim
2004 THE AVIATOR Martin Scorsese
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (La Vie aquatique) Wes Anderson
MANDERLAY Lars von Trier
xXx 2: THE NEXT LEVEL Lee Tamahori
Inside Man (L'Homme de l'intérieur) Spike Lee
PARIS, I LOVE YOU (Paris, je t'aime) – segment PLACE DES VICTOIRES Nobuhiro Suwa
2009 Antichrist Lars von Trier
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (Dans l'œil d'un tueur) Werner Herzog
2011 4:44 Last Day on Earth (4h44 Dernier Jour sur terre) Abel Ferrara
Pasolini Abel Ferrara
The Grand Budapest hotel Wes Anderson
A MOST WANTED MAN (Un homme très recherché) Anton Corbijn
The Great Wall Zhang Yimou
* also screenwriter
** also producer