Pin It

Willem Dafoe on Acting: “I don’t interpret, I do”

Willem Dafoe remains one of those actors who is as versatile as he is prolific — he regularly appears in about 3 movies per year, ranging from expensive studio projects like Spider-Man and John Carter to independent films like this year’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth and The Hunter.  In a conversation with The Guardian, he explains his approach to acting, including reflecting on his background in theater, and laughs about some of his less successful roles.

Dafoe dismisses the idea that an actor “interprets” roles.  He explains, “I don’t interpret, I do.  Sometimes I say I feel more like a dancer than an actor, because there are things implied about being an actor that I don’t really like. I feel more comfortable with the word ‘performer’. I like being the thing. I like being the doer. There’s a factualness to it. And then certain resonances happen out of how you apply yourself physically.”  In the case of the stage, Dafoe adds, “It’s amazingly physical.  With theatre, you have to be ready for anything.”

Since he’s so prolific, Dafoe has appeared in some bad films.  As for these less than stellar films, Dafoe sees them as all part of the process.  He jokes, “If you mix it up, you’re going to fail a lot! But I say it’s worth it. I think on some level, you do your best things when you’re a little off-balance, a little scared. You’ve got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing. I like coming in the back door somehow. I like things that creep up on you. I like performances that you don’t see, you feel.”

Leave a Reply

Latest Videos

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-david-mamet-in-the-1976-sh.jpg
Watch: David Mamet in the 1976 Short Documentary ‘The Playwright Directs’
Though David Mamet is best known for his distinctive writing style in his scripts for the stage and screen, he has also directed theater and film. The 1976 short documentary titled The Playwright Directs depicts Mamet directing actors through several scenes at an almost frantic pace, dispensing pearls of wisdom throughout, like his thoughts on […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-marvels-agents-of-s-h-i-e.jpg
Watch: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Bloopers
Forgetting lines? Corpsing? Delivering lines in Spanish? Unruly props? All in a day’s work on the set of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, apparently. Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, and the rest of the cast find plenty of humor while playing super-serious secret agents in the Marvel Universe. While you’re waiting for season 2 of the series […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/audtion-tapes-robin-wright-and-h.jpg
Audition Tapes: Robin Wright and Haley Joel Osment Audition with Tom Hanks for ‘Forrest Gump’
Check out Robin Wright auditioning for the role of Jenny from Forest Gump opposite Tom Hanks. Interestingly enough, Hanks doesn’t quite have Gump’s southern drawl down just yet while the other actors audition with him. In fact, Hanks would base Gump’s voice on the voice of Michael Conner Humphreys, who played the young Forrest and […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-judi-dench-sing-send-in-th.jpg
Watch Judi Dench Sing “Send In The Clowns” From Back in 1995
Dame Judi Dench has such a commanding presence as a film actress that it’s easy to forget that her big break came on stage in England with the Old Vic Company in 1957. In fact, she made her Broadway debut the very next year when the Old Vic Company performed Twelfth Night and Henry V […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/bryan-cranston-emmy-award-speech.jpg
Watch: Bryan Cranston’s Emmy Award Speech: “I love to act. It is a passion of mine and I will do it until my last breath.”
The Emmy Awards weren’t the most exciting awards show this year but with Bryan Cranston winning for Outstanding Actor in a Drama for Breaking Bad, we at least got to hear one heck of a fantastic acceptance speech. “I was a kid who always looked for the shortcut,” he said. “I did happen to stumble […]