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The Weirdest Willem Dafoe Performances That Prove He's Great In Everything

August 27, 2020 5.8k votes 799 voters 17.2k views22 items

List RulesVote up the roles that Willem Dafoe made much more memorable.

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.

  • It can’t be easy, even for the most capable of thespians, to deliver a credible performance when a script requires one to play a fish. Dafoe played the role of Gill (a member of the extravagantly named species called Moorish idols) in Finding Nemo and gave it the air of toughness and mystery it required.

    While this was the first time he was asked to do this sort of work, Dafoe was able to make the leader of the Tank Gang heroic and caring enough to work in a movie for kids.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • In the realm of supervillains in comic book movies, Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in 2002's Spider-Man is right up there with Josh Brolin's Thanos and Heath Ledger's Joker. With a giant mask covering Dafoe's entire head, much of the character’s maniacal menace had to be conveyed through voice alone.

    Dafoe's mirror speech and fantastically hammy cackling throughout elevates a rather formulaic (by today's standards) film into a classic.

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