Willem Dafoe has done stellar work in films like Platoon, To Live and Die in LA, Spider-Man (the first one - not the second or third one), and Boondock Saints (the first one - not the second one). But you have to balance that against his performances in Speed 2: Cruise Control, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Body of Evidence, and Howl. There’s a lot on either side of the fence. Dafoe is nothing if not prolific.
Many Willem Dafoe facts seem to center around the size of the actor’s manhood, which Lars von Trier described as “too large and confusing” to put on screen. One might find Willem Dafoe strange because of the way his biography gets hashed around a lot by reporters looking to make the actor weirder than he actually is. They’re looking for all the reasons Dafoe turned out the way they think he is.
Was it his sex education at the age of 6 by his five “horny” sisters? Guardian reporter Stuart Jeffries theorized that latchkey kid Dafoe locked himself up in a dark closet one too many times and became a habitual pleaser of adults, game for anything. This may explain his career and penchant for anything-goes-type characters. "When I give over to somebody's vision rather than have an idea of what I need to do, it takes me to places I wouldn't have got to by myself. I'm always attracted to a strong director,” Dafoe offered.
Who is Willem Dafoe? He’s said of his choice of roles, "Yes, I am game. I've always been game - maybe to a fault." He’s a professional who knows how to keep his wits while he’s losing it onscreen. He’s a dad. A husband. And he likes to giggle.
There’s really no way to lead into this story. It's just one of those things that exists independent of context. Here’s an excerpt of von Trier discussing Dafoe’s problematic member during the filming of Antichrist with Boston Phoenix film editor Peter Keogh:
PK: Willem Dafoe, and I think you’ve mentioned this in another interview, is probably the worst therapist in the history of movies. How would you advise him to treat the Charlotte Gainsbourgh character, and what does he do wrong?
Lars Von Trier: Yeah, first of all, I have been undergoing this cognitive therapy for three years, and... I think it’s quite typical for me to be sarcastic. You can say that one of the main ideas behind any treatment of this also is that a fear is a thought, and, you know, it doesn’t change reality. You can say in the film it’s changed reality. All that was kind of what you could read up about the film. I wouldn’t let him treat her in any other way than with his d*ck, he has an enormous d*ck, but that maybe I took also... he’s extremely well-equipped. And we had to kind of take the scenes out of the film, we had a stand-in for him, we had to take the scenes out with his own d*ck.
PK: Hold on - You had a stand-in d*ck? You had to have a stand-in d*ck for Dafoe?
LV: Yes, yes, we had to have, because Will’s own was too big.
PK: Too big to fit in the screen?
LV: (laughs) No, too big because everybody got very confused when they saw it.
While this is totally a thing that happened, Dafoe defended his expulsion in a conversation with The Mirror.
Dafoe contended, "I was just a young boy in Wisconsin - anything to get out of there.”
If you believe Dafoe’s account, his five sisters taught him about sex at the age of 6. He recalled:
It was a sexual education, because my sisters were the horniest little girls. They would tell me stuff that, when I was small, I didn't want to hear. I remember one of my sisters talking about fellatio and cunnilingus when I was 6 years old. I said, "Only dirty people do that, right?" She just laughed. When I told my friends what I knew about the birds and bees, they beat me up because they found it so disgusting.
Willem Dafoe once voiced a cartoon polar bear. The campaign began in 2011. So it’s strange, then, that Dafoe bristled at the mere mention of his voiceover as Clarence the Polar Bear in ads for Birds Eye.
“This is the last thing I want to talk about," he icily told an Independent reporter.