Willem Dafoe on Choosing Projects and Why He Doesn’t Do Television

Actor Willem Dafoe

One of the most extraordinary things about the acclaimed indie movie The Florida Project is that the cast is made up of untrained actors — that is, except for Willem Dafoe, who plays the manager of a low-cost motel on the outskirts of the Disney World resort. It’s the type of challenge that Dafoe often seeks out in his typically-eccentric film work. In an interview with IndieWire, Dafoe spoke about why he seeks out unique projects… and why that doesn’t include television work.

Unlike many actors who are branching out into prestige television work, Dafoe reveals that he specifically told his agent to turn those projects down. He explains, “I’ve basically told my agents that I’m not interested in those projects. There are many directors I want to work with in film, but I still have my theater pieces, so there’s no time. I think TV is a different culture. They say it’s the same, but I don’t believe it for a second.”

Though Dafoe has done some studio films — including the upcoming Aquaman — he tends to seek out films made outside of Hollywood. He points out that interesting work is interesting work no matter what the budget. He says, “It’s important to check in with studio movies if you can find interesting things to do in them. I have my frustrations sometimes, but you never know how projects are going to turn out. There are so many wild cards, they’re so collaborative, but you can always stand by people who turn you on.”

In fact, Dafoe recognizes one thing that all movies have in common — they involve solving problems. He continues, “I know there’s a difference that I can feel between Aquaman and The Florida Project, but I can’t categorize them. They’re as specific as the movies themselves. They have different intentions, but when it comes down to it, when you’re inside of it, it’s all problem solving. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t reflect on it. I’ve never been particular to anywhere.”

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