22 Weird Willem Dafoe Performances That Show He's Great In Everything
Some A-list Hollywood stars succeed by playing variations of one character throughout their entire career. Some examples would be John "I'm always an American Tough Guy" Wayne, Jason "I'm always a British Tough Guy" Statham, and Seth "Whoa, I'm a totally stoned guy" Rogen. Then there are the skilled thespians who can inhabit just about any role you throw at them. Willem Dafoe, over his long and illustrious career, has shown himself to be a venerable member of the latter category.
Here are some of the parts he's played that prove he can deftly handle every genre and be believable in every role, from tropical fish to the almighty Son of God. Vote up your favorite Dafoe performances.
- 1713 VOTESPhoto: Orion Pictures
In 1986 Dafoe appeared in Oliver Stone's Platoon and featured in one of the most iconic war movie moments of all time.
With his arms spread wide in an obvious crucifixion allegory, the demise of Sgt. Elias was an incredible scene that resulted in Dafoe earning his first Academy Award nomination (and losing to Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters).
In The Boondock Saints, Dafoe is FBI special agent Paul Smecker, whose mission is to bring down two vigilante brothers (played by Sean Patrick Flanery and a pre-Walking Dead Norman Reedus).
The character of Smecker is a bit more complicated than others of this sort, as he is an emotionally conflicted gay man who ultimately decides to assist his targets in their quest for ruthless justice. Dafoe plays him with an over-the-top gusto that winds up being ridiculous, weird, and vastly entertaining. While The Boondock Saints won’t be remembered as a great movie, you can't take your eyes off Dafoe.
- Photo: Orion Pictures
A straight-laced, by-the-book law enforcement professional isn't something we'd normally expect Dafoe to play, but early in his career he pulled it off magnificently.
Playing the no-nonsense FBI agent Alan Ward in the 1988 civil rights thriller Mississippi Burning (opposite Gene Hackman’s more "nuanced" agent Rupert Anderson), Dafoe received accolades for his subtle intensity, but was outrageously ignored by the people handing out awards.
- Photo: Lions Gate Films
When watching American Psycho, it's hard to notice much else when Christian Bale is chewing up the scenery as Patrick Bateman. But Dafoe delivers a knockout performance in the movie as well, playing detective Donald Kimball.
To achieve suspense and uncertainty, Dafoe filmed his scenes with Bale in three separate takes. In the first one, he was told to act unaware of Bateman's nature. In the second, he is supposed to be suspicious, and in the third, he behaves as if he is fully aware he's talking to a madman. The takes were then mixed together in the final reel, creating an effect that's nothing less than mesmerizing.
- 5407 VOTESPhoto: A24
Dafoe does such a convincing job playing a grizzled lighthouse keeper in The Lighthouse, you’d think he actually was a 19th century New England "wickie." His drunken black-and-white struggles with Robert Pattinson made this another instant classic by The Witch filmmaker Robert Eggers.
For his efforts, Dafoe earned a number of awards and nominations for a performance that The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin called “astounding" and "cinema to make your head and soul ring."
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Most people know who Jack Ryan is. He's the fictional character created by novelist Tom Clancy who has served as everything from US Marine to US president, and who's been played on the big and little screens by the likes of Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and John Krasinski.
Clancy's second-most famous creation, however, is a guy named John Clark, whom video game enthusiasts will know as a major player in the Rainbow 6 franchise. Dafoe also plays the former Navy SEAL/CIA operative in the 1994 adaption of Clear and Present Danger, in which he's believably superb at heroically assisting the aforementioned Ford covertly protect the red, white, and blue.