Willem Dafoe

“Acting is about having something happen to you, transparently enough that the audience can hopefully have a flavor of that experience. It’s why I like going to the movies so much: because you see an example of personal generosity or heroism, and it inspires you. It’s about, in real time, giving yourself to something that expresses a more collective experience.

–Willem Dafoe, episode 355 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Willem Dafoe has built a career out of shapeshifting. His latest role in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things demonstrates exactly that.

Today, he joins us to discuss his compelling performance in the imaginative tale (7:00), the elaborate details he discovered on set (9:20), and the three-hour physical transformation he underwent each day of filming (12:38). Then, Dafoe describes his upbringing in Wisconsin (15:15), his early love of B-movies (20:04), and his formative years in the theater as part of The Wooster Group in New York City (26:45).

On the back-half, we dive into his task-based approach to acting (35:55) and how it guided his memorable performances in the late William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. (41:10), Oliver Stone’s Platoon (43:52), and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (49:44). To close, Dafoe reflects on the joy of collaboration (53:30), his search for truth as an actor (57:25), and his desire to continue creating in years to come (1:00:50).

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