Willem Dafoe
Full name Willem Dafoe
Birth date July 22nd, 1955
Birth place Simi Valley, California
Portrayed Peter Van Houten
Appearances The Fault in Our Stars

Willem Dafoe (born July 22, 1955) is an American film, stage, and voice actor, and a member of the experimental theater company The Wooster Group. He has had roles in a wide range of films, including PlatoonAfflictionOff LimitsStreets of FireTo Live and Die in L.A.Born on the Fourth of JulyThe English PatientThe Last Temptation of ChristMississippi BurningMr. Bean's HolidayThe Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouThe Boondock SaintsSpider-Man, and The Aviator. He has also had voice roles in both Fantastic Mr. Fox and Finding Nemo.

Dafoe has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice - for Platoon in 1986 and for Shadow of the Vampire in 2000.

On September 6, 2013, it was announced that he will be playing the role of Peter Van Houten in the The Fault in Our Stars (film) of The Fault in Our Stars.

Early life and career[edit | edit source]

Dafoe was born William J. Dafoe in Appleton, Wisconsin. One of seven children of Muriel Isabel (born Sprissler) and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe, he recalled in 2009, "My five sisters raised me because my father was a surgeon, my mother was a nurse and they worked together, so I didn't see either of them much." In high school, he acquired the nickname Willem. His ancestry includes English, Irish, Scottish, German, Swiss, and French. Dafoe studied drama at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, but left after a year and a half to join the experimental theater company Theatre X in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before moving to New York City in 1976. There he apprenticed under Richard Schechner, director of the avant-garde theater troupe The Performance Group, and became romantically involved with the group's Elizabeth LeCompte, 11 years his senior and who, with her former romantic partner Spalding Gray and others, edged out Schechner and created the Wooster Group. Within a year Dafoe was part of the company.

Theater and film[edit | edit source]

"I worked for Jeff Bridges' character in the story. I was there for three months and I worked a lot. It was the kind of thing where you were hired to play an unscripted character and then they developed these smaller characters. I had scenes and everything and was really enjoying it and then one day we were doing a lighting setup for a long time; basically eight hours standing in place, and a woman told me a joke in my ear and I laughed at a moment of silence. Cimino turned around and said, 'Willem step out,' and that was that. I was the lamb for sacrifice." Dafoe, who would continue with the Wooster Group into the 2000s, began his film career in 1981 when he was cast in Heaven's Gate only to see his role removed from the film during editing. As Dafoe recalled of his first film experience, in which he played a cockfighter,

In the mid-1980s, he was cast by William Friedkin to star in To Live and Die In L.A., in which Dafoe portrays counterfeiter Rick Masters. A year later he starred as the leader of a motorcycle gang in The Loveless, having played a similar role in Streets of Fire. He became "very conscious" that he might be typecast as a villain, saying in 1998,

"I really made a conscious effort to mix it up, not because in itself it's not the job of an actor to do all different things, but for me that's what I'm interested in. You've got to be careful because you've got to work with what you have, not just for vanity's sake, but I think the best part of being an actor sometimes is the opportunity to transform yourself superficially, and deeply. So, it's true in the beginning I started playing villains and I think that's pretty clear because if you don't conventionally look a certain way and you've got a certain kind of presence when you're young, then what's available to you is character roles and the best character roles when you're young tend to be villains. And, also, it's fun to be bad and the only problem is often villain roles are devices and they lack a certain depth. They're signs, they're signals and after a little while you want something to chew on and if you function in a film it's the same too often. I think what happens is you develop a language that distances you from a certain kind of flashpoint of inspiration and creativity and you may refine that and that may be your work, but I'm not so interested in that. I think the best work comes when you're unsure,w hen you're terrified,w hen you're off balance."

Dafoe would go on to gain his widest exposure to that time playing the compassionate Sergeant Elias in Oliver Stone's Platoon. He enjoyed the opportunity to play a heroic role, and said the film gave him a chance to display his versatility. "I think all characters live in you. You just frame them, give them circumstances, and that character will happen."

In 1988, Dafoe starred in another film set during the Vietnam War, this time as CID Agent Buck McGriff in Off Limits. He has since become a popular character actor. He is often cast as unstable or villainous characters, such as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man and Barillo in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Before that, he was briefly considered for the role of the Joker by Tim Burton and Sam Hamm for 1989's Batman. Hamm recalls "We thought, 'Well, Willem Dafoe looks just like The Joker.'" The role eventually went to Jack Nicholson.

He starred in the erotic drama Body of Evidence with Madonna. In 1991, Willem Dafoe portrayed a Manhattan drug dealer in the Paul Schrader film Light Sleeper. Dafoe played an eccentric FBI agent in The Boondock Saints (1999) and a private investigator in American Psycho (2000). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1986 for Platoon and 2000 for Shadow of the Vampire. He played a rare heroic film role when he provided the voice of Gill in the animated film Finding Nemo. Dafoe also played a heroic leading man in Triumph of the Spirit, playing a Greek Jew, Salamo Arouch, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau through his prowess as a boxer. In 1998 he was the brother of Nick Nolte and son of James Coburn in another Schrader film, Affliction.

He worked briefly as a model in a 1990 Prada campaign. In 2004, Dafoe lent his likeness and voice for the James Bond video game Everything or Nothing as the villain Nikolai Diavolo and starred as NYPD detective Stan Aubray in the thriller Anamorph (2006).

In 2011, Dafoe began narrating a series of television commercials for the Greek yogurt company Fage. Additionally, the actor is featured in Jim Beam's "Bold Decisions" television ad campaign, which began airing April 201of 1.

Dafoe starred alongside Marina Abramović in the 2011 Manchester International Festival premiere of the play The Life and Death of Marina Abramović and will played the role again in the 2013 Luminato Festival North American premiere of the play The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. He also appears at TimesTalks Luminato.

Since 2010, Dafoe voiced Clarence the Birdseye polar bear mascot on the company's television commercials in the United Kingdom.

Dafoe appeared as the Devil in the Mercedes-Benz CLA 2013 Super Bowl ad in which Usher and Kate Upton also appear.

Dafoe also starred in three short films for Hanneke Schutte, with Saving Norman winning the Jameson First Shot competition.

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Dafoe met director Elizabeth LeCompte at The Performance Group and began a professional and personal relationship there and at its successor company, the Wooster Group. Their son, Jack, was born in 1982. The pair eventually split in 2004. Dafoe married Italian actress, director and screenwriter Giada Colagrande on March 25, 2005, a year after the two had met in Rome at the premiere of one of her films. Dafoe said in 2010, "We were having lunch and I said: 'Do you want to get married tomorrow?'". They did so the following afternoon at a small ceremony with two friends as witnesses. The two worked together on the film Before It Had a Name. The couple divide stheir time between Rome, New York City, and Los Angeles. He has dual Italian and American citizenship.

Dafoe said in 2008 he is no longer a vegetarian.

Dafoe's brother, Donald Dafoe, is a transplant surgeon and researcher.

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Film[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
1980 Heaven's Gate Uncredited
1982 The Loveless Vance
1983 The Hunger 2nd Phone Booth Youth
1984 Roadhouse 66 Johnny Harte
1984 New York Nights Boyfriend
1984 Streets of Fire Raven Shaddock
1985 To Live and Die in L.A. Erick "Rick" Masters
1986 Platoon Sergeant Elias Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor

Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead

1988 Off Limits Buck McGriff
1988 The Last Temptation of Christ Jesus
1988 Mississippi Burning Agent Alan Ward
1989 Triumph of the Spirit Salamo Arouch
1989 Born on the Fourth of July Charlie – Villa Dulce
1990 Cry-Baby Guard Cameo
1990 Wild at Heart Bobby Peru Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
1991 Flight of the Intruder Lt. Cmdr. Virgil "Tiger" Cole
1992 White Sands Deputy Sheriff Ray Dolezal
1992 Light Sleeper John LeTour Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor
1993 Body of Evidence Frank Dulaney Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
1993 Faraway, So Close! Emit Flesti
1994 Tom & Viv Tom Eliot
1994 Clear and Present Danger John Clark
1995 Victory Axel Heyst
1995 The Night and the Moment The Writer
1996 Basquiat The Electrician
1996 The English Patient David Caravaggio Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1997 Speed 2: Cruise Control John Geiger Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
1997 Affliction Rolfe Whitehouse
1998 Lulu on the Bridge Dr. Van Horn
1998 New Rose Hotel X
1999 eXistenZ Gas
1999 The Boondock Saints Agent Paul Smecker
2000 American Psycho Det. Donald Kimball
2000 Animal Factory Earl Copen
2000 Shadow of the Vampire Max Schreck Fantasporto's International Fantasy Film Award for Best Actor

Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival's President Award for Outstanding Creative Performance Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor Sitges Film Festival's Gran Angular Award for Best Actor Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated—Chlotrudis Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated—Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor(3rd place) Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor(2nd place) Nominated—Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated—San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor(2nd place) Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

2000 Bullfighter Father Ramirez
2001 Pavilion of Women Father Andre
2001 Edges of the Lord Priest
2002 Spider-Man Green Goblin/Norman Osborn Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor

Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Villain Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Fight(with Tobey Maguire)

2002 Auto Focus John Henry Carpenter Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor

Nominated—Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor(3rd place)

2002 Journey on Rio Julio, Imaginary Friend Voice
2003 Finding Nemo Gill Voice
2003 The Reckoning Martin
2003 Once Upon a Time in Mexico Armando Barillo
2003 Camel Cricket City Camel Cricket Voice

Short film

2004 The Clearing Arnold Mack
2004 Spider-Man 2 Green Goblin/Norman Osborn Cameo
2004 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Klaus Daimler Nominated—Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble Cast(2nd place)

Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast

2004 Control Dr. Michael Copeland Direct-to-video
2004 The Aviator Roland Sweet
2005 xXx: State of the Union General George Deckert
2005 Manderlay Grace's Father
2005 Before It Had a Name Leslie The Black Widow in the United States
2005 Ripley Under Ground Neil Murchison
2006 American Dreamz Chief of Staff
2006 Inside Man Capt. John Darius
2006 Tales from Earthsea Cob Voice – English version
2006 Paris, je t'aime The Cowboy Segment: "Place des Victoires"
2007 The Walker Senator Larry Lockner
2007 Mr. Bean's Holiday Carson Clay
2007 Spider-Man 3 Green Goblin/Norman Osborn Credited cameo/ Villain; also uncredited extra
2007 Go Go Tales Ray Ruby
2007 Anamorph Det. Stan Aubrey
2008 Fireflies in the Garden Charles Waechter
2008 Adam Resurrected Commandant Klein
2008 The Dust of Time A.
2009 Antichrist He Bodil Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role

Nominated—Robert Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role

2009 Fantastic Mr. Fox Rat Voice
2009 Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Gavner Purl
2009 The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day Paul Smecker Cameo
2009 Daybreakers Elvis
2009 My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? Detective Havenhurst
2009 L'affaire Farewell Feeney
2010 Miral Eddie
2011 The Hunter Martin David Nominated—AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
2011 4:44 Last Day on Earth Cisco
2012 John Carter Tars Tarkas Performance capture
2013 Odd Thomas Wyatt Porter
2013 A Woman
2013 A Most Wanted Man Tommy Brue Post-production
2013 Out of the Furnace John Prtty Post-production
2013 Nymphomaniac L Post-production
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Jopling Post-production
2014 Whiskey Bay Bud Carter Post-production
2014 The Fault in Our Stars Peter Van Houten Post-production
2016 Finding Dory Gill Voice

Television[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
1986 The Hitchhiker Jeffrey Hunt "Ghostwriter"
1991 Fishing With John Himself Segment: "Ice Fishing in Northern Maine"
1997 The Simpsons The Commandant Voice

"The Secret War of Lisa Simpson"

2007 Family Guy Himself Voice and likeness

Lois Kills Stewie

Video games[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
2002 Spider-Man Green Goblin / Norman Osborn
2004 James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing Nikolai Diavolo Both voice and likeness
2013 Beyond: Two Souls Nathan Dawkins Both voice and likeness

Other awards and nominations[edit | edit source]


  • 2002: Won, "Special Award:For immense contribution to the art of film."

San Sebastian International Film Festival

Stockholm International Film Festival

  • 2012: Won, Stockholm Achievement Award
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