The Marvel Life

The Marvel Life: Willem Dafoe

The one-time Green Goblin speaks about his new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, plus how Spider-Man changed his career and mo

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Willem Dafoe is no stranger to the Marvel Universe.

The talented star of stage and screen gained widespread acclaim for his portrayal of Norman Osborn in the original Spider-Man cinematic trilogy. We recently spoke with him during a press tour for the new Wes Anderson film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” where he talked about similarities between movies and comics, how Spider-Man changed his life and much more!

Marvel.com: My first question is, you are just the worst character in the world in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a sadistic killer in this dark comedy, but I still like you for some reason. Why is that?

Willem Dafoe in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Willem Dafoe: [Laughs] Well, he has a job to do.

Marvel.com: How’d you come up with the character or put your own spin to it?

Willem Dafoe: It’s really just about inhabiting [the character] because in Wes’ world he works out so much stuff. He immediately sent me a drawing of myself as the character and the wardrobe was very specific, his props were very specific, his motorcycle was very specific. I had all these things handed to me as fact. That’s a lot to work with so then my job is just to kind of do his actions in an elegant and powerful way.

Marvel.com: Your character has interesting teeth in the film. Who came up with that idea?

Willem Dafoe: There’s a little story there. Wes, like I said, works out things quite meticulously, and I like working with a strong structure and that strong input from the director. But in this case, he wanted me to wear these teeth that are kind of like vampire teeth. I must say, I’m very trusting of Wes and if that’s what he wants, I’ll try to do it. But I had a strong feeling against that. I felt, “Wow. This is too familiar. I feel like vampire teeth [are] overdone. I’ve been there.” And I thought about it and inverted them and simply put them on the lower part of my mouth rather than the upper ones. It’s a little tiny thing but it really helped me because then it created a different kind of look, kind of like a bulldog, and that was a nice image for me about his kind of directness and his consistency in his approach to his task, which were all incredibly violent. That was, not a big deal, not hardly a story, but that’s the kind of thing where Wes had a very strong idea and we worked together to find what I think is a better solution.

Marvel.com: Earlier, I interviewed Tony Revolori, who’s playing the bellhop, Zero, in the film. I asked him this too, but the ensemble cast in this is amazing, yourself included. What’s it like working with this basically unknown younger character who’s pretty much the main character in the film?

Willem Dafoe in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Willem Dafoe: He was fantastic and immediately seeing him work I was amazed by how poised and how together he was. He was probably the most professional person on the set [Laughs]. He’s also an extremely sweet person and very, very sharp. He was a little bit like his character. He catches on quickly, that’s all I can say. He’s pretty unassuming but incredibly intelligent. Tony, he’s a real find. I think he’s great in the movie.

Marvel.com: I have to ask too, since you’re a member of the Marvel family…

Willem Dafoe: It’s true.

Marvel.com: Tell Marvel fans why they would want to see this movie.

Willem Dafoe: [Laughs] Oh, oh God. I’m always having trouble telling people why they should do things.

Marvel.com: Well it seems like Wes Anderson has an illustrator type of mentality as a cinematographer.

Willem Dafoe: Even better yet, when we started, he showed me an animated line drawing storyboard that is as good as many movies I’ve seen. Not better. It was gorgeous. He did all the characters, even though they were very crude line drawings, they were so expressive. They really gave you the idea of the attitude of the character and the gestural language of the character. Also, the shots were anticipated and very planned out. It was a beautiful thing, this animatic storyboard. So you’re right, he’s an illustrator. He’s [an artist]. He responds to how things look. I suppose getting back to your question about why Marvel fans would be interested, he’s also creating a world and speaking about our world through a created world. I think in a lot of cases that’s what the comics do.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn in Spider-Man

Marvel.com: When you become a Marvel character on the big screen that seems to stay with you for the rest of your career. What’s it been like since you were in the “Spider-Man” film?

Willem Dafoe: It’s probably the most widely seen film I’ve ever done so it’s one that people on the street refer to a lot. Of course, I haven’t made a lot of movies that people of all ages can see so that was a whole new thing, kids knowing me from the movies. I think people just feel deeply about Spider-Man.

See “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in theaters now and learn more about the movie on their official web site!

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1 comments
CrystalMcGhee
CrystalMcGhee plus member

What a wonderfully talented actor! :]