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

William H. Macy: “This may sound pretentious, but I am getting better at what I do every day”
"I love the fact that I work every day." - William H. Macy
Luke Hemsworth on ‘Westworld’: “It was a no-brainer to me. I was absolutely going to jump onboard”
"As an actor, if you're given very little information about what's going on, then you're forced to make it up." - Luke Hemsworth
Khary Payton on His ‘Walking Dead’ Audition: “It was one of the more substantial auditions I’ve ever done”
"I always say I’m in the hope business. You’ve got to stay hopeful. You’ve got to get up off your behind and try again..." - Khary Payton
Hayley Atwell’s Best Career Advice: “I’d say the main thing is: show up. Show up and be professional”
Atwell reflects on her career and recounts why she wanted to become an actress since she was a child and what was the best career advice she ever received.
Mike Colter on Playing ‘Luke Cage’: “I was looking at it from the standpoint of an artist”
Colter says that it didn't take long for him to understand the importance of the character in comic book history.