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The Great Pretender An Interview with Willem Dafoe

Article Reflection: The Great Pretender     : An Interview with Willem Dafoe

William Dafoe was born on 22 July in America. He was an actor, voice actor and a model. His father Dr William Alfred was a surgeon and his mother Muriel Isabel was a nurse by profession .He has six siblings and he claimed that because of the busy schedule of his parents he was raised by his elder sisters. Dafoe got his earlier education fromAppleton High School than he went to Einstein Middle School. Dafoe studied drama for one and half year at the university of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In the article, “The Great Pretender : An Interview with Willem Dafoe” the writers Richard Porton and Garry Crowdus has admired the interesting personality and acting intellectualities and abilities of Willem Dafoe that made him a disparate film actor like Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Lemmon.

The Writers has chosen the name of the name of the Article as “The Great Pretender” in the admiration of the acting skills of Dafoe as he has the ability to make him fit for any character and shows that he pretend amazingly as he is the real character.

In the admiration of Dafoe’s acting skills, the writers has highlighted that in his career Dafoe, had to act with different directors such as Martin Scorses, David Lynch and Oliver Stone and he have act in different types of movies such as Light Sleeper and Spider man, thus with every director and in every movie, he appeared prominently and even as villain he is admired by the viewers and appreciated for his art and craft that he reflected through his acting on pretending different characters.

Dafoe stared acting in his teenage and after being associated with the theatre department of the University hejoined “Theatre X” experimental theatre company. He toured stateside and whole Europe with the company.Then he joined Wooster Group Company created by Elizabeth LeCompte and others. In 1976 he went to New York.

William Dafoe started his film career in 1981. His first film was Michael Cimion’s Heaven’s Gate in which he played a role of a cockfight. His role was removed from the movie during editing and his hard work of three months went into vain. In mid 80’s shortly after Heaven’s Gate he got another chance for his first feature role.

 William Friedkin offers him a role ofRick Master who was a counterfeiter in his movie “To Live and Die in L.A”which he accepted. After a year he worked in another movie “the Loveless” in which he played as amotorcycle gang’s leader which was similar with his role in “Street of Fire”. Dafoe played the role of compassionate Sergeant Elias in “Platoon”a film by Oliver Stone which gained him fame.In 1986 he got the nomination in Academy Awards in the category of the Best Supporting Actorfor his role played in Platoon.

The writer admired the acting ability of Dafoe as they highlighted the in his acting career, Dafoe Appears in diversified roles and he pretended like a real character even though the nature of his act complete different from each other but he prove himself that he is an actor with some God gifted abilities.

In 1988 he worked in “OFF Limits” as CID agent Black McGriff. He mostly played villainous and unstable character like he played in “Spiderman” and “Once Upon a time in Mexico”. In the same year he played the most memorable role of his film career that was the role of Jesus Christ’s in “The Last Temptation of Christ” a film by Martin Scorsese.

Moreover, the writers interestingly quoted the even liked to Dafoe’s film at the start of his career when Dafoe was acting in ‘The Loveless’ the writers said that the director recognize the potential of Dafoe’s acting and his wiry build and elastic facial features thus he casted him as Charismatic thugs in this movie. Subsequently, Dafoe was casted in the next movie named “Streets of Fire” because of his facial features and his acting potential.

 In 1991 he played as a drug dealer in the film “Light Sleeper” by Paul Schrader. Then in The Boondocks Saints he played a role of FBI agent and in American Psycho he pled as private investigator. His more memorable films includes Clear and Present Danger, Tom and Viv,  The English Patient, Lulu on the Bridge, Affliction, Triumph of the spirits, Shadow of the Vampire andThe Life Aquatic. He was also a part of Spider Man as Green Goblin. Similarly he played a supporting role in Aviator.

In 1986 Dafoe was nominate for an Academy in the admiration of his portrayal of Sgt. Elias Grodin in Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

Interestingly, during an interview when Cineaste asked Dafoe about the emphasizing body as opposed to more traditional acting, which emphasizes psychology. In the response of it, Dafoe replied that during acting I believe that I am making thing instead of interpreting things, therefore, when I act I develop sensibility in term of being more a performer or a pretender rather than an interpreter.

Another interesting thing about the Dafoe’s acting was seen when he appeared as Bobby Perun that was strangely charming psychotic in the movie Wild at Heart, he proved his skills because of his creepiness is completely congruent with David Lynch’s cockeyed vision.

He has also worked as the voice actor and he became the voice of many characters. He played the lead role in the “Finding Nemo” as Gill. Similarly he lends his voice to Nikolai Diavolo a villain in the “Everything or Nothing” which was a video game of James Bond.

Consequently, the writer asked Dafoe about the sense of Physicality importance, and then Dafoe replied that not merely the physicality but the thing that is more important for him is the practicality and directness.

He has also worked with Madonna in the drama named “body of Evidence’ which was an erotic drama. Dafoe has also worked as model for the Prada campaign during his career. Moreover he was one of the jury members of 57th Berlin International Film Festivals held in 2007. In 2011 he becomes associated with the Fage the Greek Yogurt company for its series of TV commercials. 2010 in United Kingdom he also voiced the Bird eye Polar Bear mascot named Clarence for the TV commercial.

The thing that is really interesting about the acting of Dafoe is that when the writer asked about any traditional acting training. Dafoe interestingly replied that he never attended school to learn acting but he clear that his way towards acting was not tradition and he exposed that it is his experience that taught him acting and accordingly he make improvement through a self-development process.

He was also a part of the play The Life and Death of Marine Abramovic played in Manchester International Festival and Luminato Festival North American premier. He also appeared in the commercial of Mercedes-Benz as a Devil along with Usher and Kate.

The most interesting thing appeared in the interview when Cineaste asked Dafoe about his acting experience while having a mask over his face. Dafoe explained that “I find that with a strong mask you’re in a safer place.”Further Defoe explained his acting experience behind the mask as “When I have a mask, it just opens me up to pretending in a purer way.”

Through this interesting interview of Dafoe, it is found that he is an actor with real God gifted talent which he reflected in playing different roles in different movies that are completely different from each other. Moreover, Dafoe is a skilful but an interesting actor that proved his skill through his work in any role.


Gary Crowdus, & Porton, R. (2006). The Great Pretender: An interview with Willem Dafoe. Cineaste , 40-47

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