DaFoe | This Guy's no Goblin!
emily blunt interview
was asked - to my great joy - to chat with Mr. Willem DaFoe on
his acting and his role in Auto Focus.
Focus is brought to us by visceral creator-of-film director Paul
Schrader (Taxi Driver, Affliction etc...etc.). Paul's one of those
diabolically honest interpreters of the darker side of man (and
AF, Schrader was clever and cast Willem DaFoe as deceased actor
Bob Crane's closest and deadliest, er, dearest , friends
John Carpenter. Real people played by real actors Willem Dafoe
as Carpenter and Greg Kinnear as the affable troubled Crane.
was the prime suspect in the murder of Bob Crane, best known as
Col. Hogan from Hogan's Heroes. John was tried and acquitted and
unfortunately died before forensics became the hermetically sealed
proof-positive case-maker it now is.
always Willem DaFoe ads a certain subtle flare to a character
one should despise but in his experienced hands becomes a guy,
that while he is oozing with mediocre DNA and is at first glance
more pathetic and forgettable that hostile and conniving becomes,
almost nightmare inducing and mesmerizing. A remarkable performance.
Not since Shadow of the Vampire has DaFoe
wigged me out so thoroughly with his patented slither. It's the
way he draws you in and keeps you at attention, trying to figure
if it's a bad guy or a good guy or a gray guy he's portraying
this time around. Brilliant. Enough groveling at the man's feet
here's our chat...
Willem: Howdy. It's nice to put a face to the name.
How hard was it a stretch for you to play this heavy John Carpenter
fellow in your latest " Flick de Perfection," Auto Focus?
[laughter ] I don't think of him as a heavy. It wasn't too hard.
Do you think he killed Bob Crane?
That's not for me to say. I think the film points to something.
It points to the fact that he's a good suspect. I'd say he's a
pretty good suspect but there are other people that could have
done it and I have been living with this story for so long it
is easy to imagine it could have been a jealous husband a jilted
girlfriend you know he didn't treat right. The main thing is it's
not so important - that's not what the movies thrust was/ its
more about the arc of Bob Cranes career of
. his compulsion
- sort of the disintegration of his personality secondarily his
interesting codependent relationship with this guy that brought
him this video equipment that brought him on this fabulous adventure.
Do you see this is as a love story? I heard it advertised as a
I'm not going to say that. But that's acceptable. I mean there's
all kinds of love one of the things that attracted me when I first
read the script was there were these scenes with these men. Two
men, so intimate they were like - scenes between a couple - and
tinged with sexuality but not homosexual. There were all kinds
of markings of troubles couples have. Richard Dawson was a distraction.
Bob didn't want "me" to hang out with Richard Dawson
for the most part our balances were very much like the
kind that happen in couples. I just though it was very
interesting. Unusual, but totally plausible, of a relationship
between two men.
I think John Carpenter is a real type, and there are many John
Carpenters in the world, we all have John Carpenter in our lives.
The thing that interested me about him was there was something
sweet about him.
Yeah! In that he really wanted everybody to have a good
time and he also wanted to be useful. He wanted to help
people to get stuff an if he got a little "thrown" his
way - that was cool [laughter]. In some ways we are really disgusted
by that ' cause it feels like an opportunist. But again, somehow
given his story, how we tell it, and even the real life John Carpenter
seemed like basically a kind guy searching for his piece through
this "vehicle." I think we can all relate to that! And
it's no accident that it's sex too - that it involves sex. That's
why sex sells. And we've all had a relationship to sex.It's a
biological need! We believe it's something that will transform
us - not just give us pleasure. It's very tangible. It's
a shortcut to intimacy and can even be a short cut to romantic
love. Here the world it's in and the way it's framed [it] creates
a weird tension - and it's that weird tension that interested
You kept Carpenter very likable. How did you study for him? Just
read the script and create him or from footage?
Both. I had the videotapes available to me. I didn't study him
manner wise. But you want to get as much information as
possible to develop
. or become
this person. To inhabit
the scenes and sort of get rid of yourself and invite this other
character to be born. It is probably mostly the script. But any
details you can get that contribute to your confidence that "I
am this guy" works.
Emily: Did you find Carpenter harder to play?
Because he was real?
Yeah. It's more for the information in the actual scene. I have
forgotten john carpenter, I AM John Carpenter - [laughter] - and
I don't mean that in any psycho crazy way - just when you're
doin' it you're doin' it. And it's more your decision in clothing
and how to approach things that the historical John Carpenter
colors your choices. Because on some levels you trust the reality
so you borrow from it to guide you to find some sort of truthful
behavior thing that really reveals things as they are.
Emily:[Thought but not spoken: Take that Lee Strasburg!] Paul
Schrader believes your his guy for what he calls, "the deep
end of the pool" roles. You worked with him before can you
talk a little about the relationship?
Ahha. Well, I worked with him a bit. This is my third time. I
did Light Sleeper and Affliction. Affliction wasn't
I like the film very much... but it was a small role so I wasn't
really that involved. I saw the process though. I am a
friend of Paul's. I know Paul. I have an affinity for his desire
to tell these stories. I like how he thinks. I enjoy sitting in
a room listening to him talk about film, about writing...about
Me too. I went to his lecture at the academy.
Must have been great! He's very seductive. Because while his aesthetic
doesn't always burn real hot it's very passionate. By his sort
of hot topics. He deals with spirituality. He deals with compulsive
behavior. He deals with desire. He deals with all the hunger,
longing the deep deep ones. But he doesn't deal with them in a
transgressive gross way he deals with them in a very - I don't
want to say intellectual - but in a very aestheticized
way. That combination of hot and cold can be very beautiful to
me! The aesthetic makes it easier to accept these stories.
If it's all amped up you tend to get juiced up with and you're
carried along for the ride. You never
kind of finish the movie and you're like "oh, that was great
But never have you been to that place where your heart and your
mind and your heart join. And it's those points were you say,
"What is going on here." And it challenges your view
on your world, as you know it. I am always looking for someone
that does that. I like working for him. He does a lot of his work
in the casting the writing and the design, these are low budget
when you get there you're going going going! Fast.
Since he knows me we have a "shorthand." I'd work with
him again of course.
What about working with (sigh) Greg Kinnear?
He's very thoughtful, and he's very bright. You know I like him
a lot and he was very game. You know I hear him being interviewed
and I bristle for him
if I'm saddled with this kind of "you're
so dark' he's saddled with "Oh you come from television-
you're so light how could you get dirty like this." We're
actors. The way people see us is conditioned so much by what they've
seen us do. Of COURSE! That doesn't mean what you know is all
there is. Greg is just really great to work with. I thought he
was a real good choice for this role- he's very different from
me. It was good to work with. I went towards him and he went towards
Does it bother you that you're semi-pigeonholed as these off-the-wall
Yeah. Yeah sometimes. Of course I'm not as badly pigeonholed as
some people. You just try to stay flexible in how people can think
of you. Like the irony is your success sometimes can be the very
thing that kills you artistically. And particularly like Bob Crane.
I don't have it so bad. But I am always watching. The one thing
that I'm happy about is that I have been around long enough that
even if you do a movie like Spiderman, which I had a goodtime
on and was very successful, you don't walk out on the street now
and people don't just see you as the Green Goblin! [laughter].
But yeah, Emily, I really work like hell to cultivate that.
Is it hard to work for different directors? I mean you're one
way with Martin Scorsese and another with Oliver Stone? [his eyebrow
I think you have to invent
I choose to invent my craft
each time, with each director. The way you function is always
different. Sometimes you can sus it out. Sometimes it's important
. sometimes it's not. I'm not sure if this relates
I remember I was really struck by this - I'll share. I was talking
to [director] Todd Solandz at a film festival
recently and he said [smarmy vocal imitation of the avante gard
= artsy fartsy director] "I don't want my actors to be ironic.
I want them to do it and I'll frame them ironically."
I though that was interesting.
[thought but not spoken; hmm, I thought it was pompous and quite
frankly undepherible. What do they mean? But onward...] So in
his case he'd be a puppeteer?
Yeah, and sometimes you have to be conscious of what your function
is - sometimes you don't. It's like anything. If you work in a
you develop a balance. For the same reason
it's kind of nice when my career needs match my personal needs.
When I feel to go from big movie to small movie -if I can-if I
can. You can't always because it's always a combination of what's
available to you to what your desires are. Hopefully they match
up. I think it's important to mix it up!
there's a working actors view on just doing what the director
.follow his advice- learn to shift and groove and
you'll go father
How was life after the Green Goblin for
It always takes a delay to see the effect of a movie. I don't
know. But, I have never really done a movie that children could
see before. So for the first time I'm dealing with children recognizing
me. Otherwise I've never made a movie that kids would see
Are they scared? Run fleeing into the safe arms of their parental
NO!? [laughter] Sometimes they love me! Bad is good sometimes!
especially when the "bad" guy is played by a megatelent
like Mr. Willem Da-doe-a-deer-a-female-deer- foe ! He's yet another
intelligent actor that continues to create roles that are indelibly
printed into the crevices of our memory. From vampires,
to goblins or woeful soldiers to befuddled lovers, DaFoe is picky
with his choices and his career shines for it. And yes, he does
really kind of look like a vampire in real life too. By far the
coolest bone structure this chickbabe has ever spotted on a mansteak.
But looks are often deceiving and here is a prime example
he's as cuddly as a pussycat. A Rex pussycat, but still
WEEK studmuffin talent GREG KINNEAR on playing Hogan and sharing
a few hearty giggles
Photos by Jeff Vespa - ©WireImage.com
- Image courtesy WireImage.com from Toronto Film Festival / montage
by Erika Bolin