Few actors working today realize as many wildly divergent roles as Willem Dafoe. Dafoe stars in A24’s psychological chamber piece The Lighthouse from director Robert Eggers (The VVitch). He then steps back into the 1950s in Warner Bros’s Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton’s throwback to socio-political dramas in the vein of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. Next up is, of all things, the Disney+ action film Togo, a true story about dog sled teams delivering diphtheria antitoxin serum over 700 miles.
Thanks to Willem Dafoe’s extraordinary talent as an actor, none of these roles feels repetitious. Each character lives as a unique entity. Each performance perfectly calibrated to the material and setting. You see an actor working at the top of his game – an actor having the time of his life.
“Now’s a good time. I’ve been lucky to be involved in some very good projects,” Dafoe admitted in our podcast interview.
Here, Dafoe talks about working with the great Robert Eggers, someone he refers to as a near-walking encyclopedia of knowledge. Eggers’s script and side research helped Dafoe find the character of Wade, the isolated lighthouse keeper in The Lighthouse. It’s an unusual performance that has Oscar watchers tipping Dafoe for a potential fifth Academy Award nomination. Dafoe talks about finding the character, what drew him to the project, and how the work compares with his other major film role of the fall, Warner’s Motherless Brooklyn.
Finally, wonder why Willem Dafoe shows up in a Disney+ film? He describes with great passion the respect for the gorgeous landscape, animals, the historic story, and the thrill of action films all rolled to the upcoming Togo, which drops December 13 only on Disney+.