Four-time Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe returns to screens this month in Yorgos Lanthimos’s acclaimed film Poor Things. No matter what you’ve heard about the film, you’re not quite ready for the adventure that Lanthimos, screenwriter Tony McNamara, and stars Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, and Dafoe have in store for you.
Based on the Alasdair Gray novel, Poor Things features Dafoe as Dr. Godwin Baxter, a brilliant scientist who brings a recently deceased woman (Stone) back to life. As she rapidly progresses through childhood into adulthood, Dafoe’s father figure must learn to let go of his “daughter,” Bella, so that she can experience the full variety that life holds.
Naturally, Dafoe’s performance shines in the brilliant ensemble. As the character of Dr. Baxter was scarred as a child, Dafoe sat in a makeup chair for six hours each day of filming. Yet, the prosthetics never get in the way of his wonderful performance. He fully avoids mad scientist clichés, imbuing his character with pure love for his creation — the closest thing to a daughter he’ll ever have.
Here, Dafoe talks about his first time working with director Yorgos Lanthimos. Prior to filming, Lanthimos led his Poor Things company in rehearsals similar to that of a traditional theater company. The experience helped the team bond well in advance of performing in front of the cameras. He also talks about acting through heavy prosthetics and the emotional undercurrent of his character.
Poor Things opens nationwide Friday, December 15.