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Friday, Jan. 8, 2010

Willem Dafoe Speaks Up

Wisconsin Actor Stars in Daybreakers

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His name is synonymous with acting. A Wisconsin native, Willem Dafoe’s illustrious career has spanned over three decades on the big screen and stage. Before moving to New York in 1977, Willem built sets and acted with the avant-garde Theatre X in Milwaukee. Express Milwaukeecaught up with Willem about his role in the futuristic sci-fi thriller, Daybreakers which opens in theaters on Jan. 8.

Express Milwaukee: You went from one type of horror movie to another. From Antichrist to this one. What was your first reaction when you got this script?

Willem Dafoe: When I first read the script I thought the part would really be fun. I’m always looking to do action. I love doing action.

Express Milwaukee: Were you surprised that the script was completely original, not based on a comic book or anything else?

Willem Dafoe: No, because I always assume that it’s going to be original. The world that I live in, mostly it is. I tend to do more independent movies, although I’ve made those movies and I like making those movies…you know that’s funny, that didn’t occur to me. I didn’t say where did this come from? It was clear, it was very specific.

Express Milwaukee: You were in or seven movies that came out this past year. When do you sleep?

Willem Dafoe: We shot this movie a long time ago and the post on it was very long. I think they were trying to be very savvy about where to place it with the consciousness with other vampire movies. It’s a question of stuff when gets released. They all had their slowdown and there was a bottleneck and now a lot of stuff is flowing again as far as releases.

Express Milwaukee: What was the most challenging thing about doing this part?

Willem Dafoe: I think it was finding the right tone. Often that’s the truth - it’s about how to enter the world and how to serve the world and find that balance. How goofy should it be, how much do you lose yourself in it, those are calibrations that are sometimes hard to find because the reality of it is hard to relate to because it doesn’t remind you of much of anything in your life; it’s so fantastical and extreme.

Express Milwaukee: What advice would you give aspiring actors?

Willem Dafoe: If someone comes up to me and says oh, I really want to do this. I’m like, “Ok, go see what you like.” You find a theater you like, go there. Find out whatever you can do just to be close to it, even if it’s being an usher and seeing them perform every night. Get close to that, see what‘s going on, that‘s the best education there is. Insinuate yourself into a situation you want to get close to and pretty soon, if that’s what you love to do, you may not be doing it but you’re around it and you slowly work your way towards the center and that becomes yours and that’s the way to find your way.

Express Milwaukee: Can you talk about John Carter of Mars?

Willem Dafoe: I don’t know much about it but I can tell you that next week I go to London to start to train to prepare for it. I play a 10-foot Martian warrior.

Express Milwaukee: Do you know how Martian warrior fights yet?

Willem Dafoe: Or speak or move…(smiling) it’ll be a complicated performance.

Express Milwaukee: What type of director brings out your best acting?

Willem Dafoe: It doesn’t work that way and with each project a different performance is necessary. There’s many different ways of performing and some obviously you have tendencies to be better than others, some you do naturally others you have to learn. It’s such a mixture of all these things so it’s really hard to say. I can say that I seek them out; I get most excited by personal filmmakers, as close as we have to auteur which there are very few of.

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