It’s Willem Dafoe’s birthday! To mark the occasion, here are five of my favorite performances of his. Check some of these out!
The Lighthouse (2019)
This man absolutely deserved an Oscar nom for best performance but the Academy consistently overlooks horror. The gimmick of this film doesn’t work without the incredible performances produced by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Dafoe is mesmerizing as the gruff old wickie who drinks too much and gets his feeling hurt if you don’t like his cooking. His ability to lose himself in a role and make you not see Willem but the character is a talent most actors do not have. His accent, dialogue, and mannerisms make you believe he is this late 19th-century wickie. he is fantastic throughout but there is one scene where he is simply spellbinding. Hark!
Streets of Fire (1984)
This Walter Hill film was my first exposure to Mr. Dafoe. He plays Raven Shaddock, the leader of a biker gang called The Bombers. The real star of this film is the alternative world Hill has created that is pretty close to a rock ‘n’ roll opera and Dan Hartman’s “I can dream about you” of course. The young Dafoe, who has always looked 57, kidnaps the local pop sensation and must go up against her soldier ex-boyfriend played by Michael Pare. Dafoe is just fun here as the evil biker gang leader and what is most impressive is how he can still be menacing in vinyl overalls. This is a must-watch, especially for 80s and 50s lovers. There is a sledger hammer fight for crying out loud.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
“For a few seconds, this place was an Armageddon….. And there was a firefiiighhttt!!” The Boondock Saints is about two Irish Catholic brothers who become vigilantes and wipe out Boston’s criminal underworld in the name of God in a Tarantino-esque fashion. This was one of those films where I had not even heard of and simply rented it from Blockbuster solely based on the summary of the film and the fact it had Willem Dafoe in it. And I absolutely loved it with Dafoe being one of the biggest reasons why. His turn as the eccentric FBI agent, chewed up each scene he was in which helped make the movie even more entertaining. One of my favorite performances of his hands down.
Wild at Heart (1990)
Dafoe’s menacing appeal combined with David Lynch’s, well Lynchianess?, was sure to make for a twisted and sick character. And that is just what we got. Bobby Peru is a repulsive hitman with a repulsive look (a pencil mustache? I mean come on), his need to speak in third person and his penchant for sexual assault leaves a lot to be desired but Dafoe is simply masterful as this slimeball. Of all of Lynch’s creeps in his stable, Bobby Peru is one of the worst ore best depending on how you look at it.
The thing I love most about Dafoe is that he isn’t afraid to take risks as an actor. He doesn’t just play comfortable Oscar-bait roles over and over again like some do. His ability to play the most maniacal and original characters to the being able to play the everyman is a rare talent. Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist was highly controversial and Dafoe wasn’t afraid of it. Very few actors would have the courage to allow von Trier to put them through what Dafoe (and Gainsbourg) experienced in the name of cinema here. No matter if you fell in love with the film or disgusted by it, it’s hard to find a flaw in Dafoe’s performance.
What are some of your favorite films to feature birthday boy Willem Dafoe?