Willem Dafoe - biography and personal life


Name: Willem Dafoe

Real name: William Defoe

Birthday: July 22 1955 (64 years old)

Place of Birth: Appleton, Wisconsin, USA

Height: 175 cm

Weight: 78 kg

Eastern horoscope: Goat

Career: Foreign actors 350 place

Childhood and adolescence

The boy was completely different from his two brothers and five sisters and became the only one who devoted his life to creativity (the rest connected life with law and medicine). As a child, he constantly joked, grimaced and made people laugh, which more than once helped him out in difficult situations.

After graduating from school, the young man entered the University of Milwaukee in the drama department, but after a year and a half dropped out and began touring with the Theater X experimental youth theater, becoming essentially a wandering artist. Four years later, Willem decided to settle in New York and got a job at the Performance Group Theater.

Why willem?

The actor owes his unusual name to a caring nanny - his parents named him in honor of his father, but “William” was transformed into “Willem” due to the Scottish pronunciation of the woman watching over the boy. This is one version. There is another - that the neighbor in the apartment in Milwaukee called Willem the future movie star (at the Defoe University there he studied at the faculty of drama for some time). And since the guy always did not like the diminutive form of the real name ("Billy"), he gladly picked up the new version.


It is believed that a person can be taught anything - to sing, draw, cook, build houses, drive vehicles, play sports and much more. It is also known that most people have a predisposition to certain occupations - such people are usually said to be simply created for this. This statement is just the right fit for the American Willem Dafoe - an actor with a textured appearance and undoubted charisma.

Childhood and youth

The future actor was born in the small town of Appleton, located on the Fox River, 160 kilometers north of Milwaukee - the administrative center of Wisconsin. It happened on July 22, 1955.

Willem Dafoe in 2017

William (the boy received this name at birth) is the seventh of 8 children of the surgeon William Alfred Defoe and the nurse Muriel Isabelle (nee Sprieller), five daughters and one son have already been born before him. The last child also turned out to be a boy.

William differed from his brothers and sisters in character - they were sedate and slow, and the future actor from the cradle showed excessive activity and artistry. Later, the troubled nature of the young man made itself felt - for shooting porn films, William was kicked out of school. By the way, then a variant of the name Willem appeared, having Scottish roots (like the actor himself) - Defoe did not like it when they called him Billy.

Willem Dafoe in his youth

After school, Willem moved to Milwaukee, where he enrolled in drama courses at the University of Wisconsin. However, Defoe did not hold out until the end of the course, going on a tour with Theater X, one of the oldest experimental theaters in America, which lasted until 2004.

With Theater X, Wille traveled to the United States and Europe, and 4 years later, in 1976, he returned to America and settled in the United States. Then he became a member of another theater troupe - The Perfomance Group, which was led by Richard Schechner. Later, some of the actors, led by Elizabeth LeCompte, left The Perfomance Group, organizing their own troupe - The Wooster Group. Defoe was part of The Wooster Group until the mid-2000s. At this time, the other children of William Alfred Defoe and Muriel Isabel studied as doctors and lawyers.


For the first time, Willem took part in filming a movie in 1980. His debut was supposed to be the tape of Michael Cimino "The Gates of Paradise", however, due to a quarrel with the director, all the episodes with Defoe's participation were cut out. Wille later admitted that he did not regret it, because the picture of Cimino became a major Hollywood box office failure.

Willem Dafoe in the movie “Diner on Highway 66”

The real debut on the wide screen took place only 2 years later. Defoe played the role of leader of a gang of bikers from the group Out of Law in the film Without Love. After 2 years, he starred in a similar role in Walter Wesley Hill’s Streets on Fire.

A year earlier, Defoe appeared in the cult vampire movie “Hunger” by Tony Scott, in which the main roles were played by David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. In 1984, Willem for the first time played the main role, starring in the crime comedy “Diner on Highway 66”. In 1985, he played in the film "Live and Die in Los Angeles" directed by William Fridkin ("The Exorcist", "French Connection", "Sorcerer").

Willem Dafoe in the movie "Platoon"

The real fame came to the actor in 1986, then the first film of the Vietnamese trilogy of Oliver Stone “Platoon” was released. Defoe played the secondary role of Sergeant Elias Grodin (for which he was first nominated for an Oscar), and Charlie Sheen entrusted the main role.

In 1988, he played the role of Jesus Christ in Martin Scorsese’s film “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which is an adaptation of the eponymous work by Nikos Kazantzakis. Director Sergio Leone expressed his dissatisfaction with Defoe's appointment to this role, saying that a person who had previously played bikers, bandits and soldiers could not fulfill the role of the messiah. A similar situation was at the time with the Russian actor Sergei Bezrukov, when he played the role of Christ (Yeshua Ga-Nozri) in the film adaptation of “The Master and Margarita”.

Willem Dafoe in the film "The Last Temptation of Christ"

Also, 1988 was marked for Defoe by participating in the film "Mississippi on Fire", filmed by Alan Parker ("Midnight Express", "Heart of an Angel", "The Life of David Gale"). The film tells of the real killings of civil rights activists in Mississippi in June 1964. In addition to Defoe, the movie starred Gene Hackman and Francis McDormand.

In 1989, Wille again collaborated with Oliver Stone. The result of this collaboration is the second tape from the Vietnamese cycle - “Born on the Fourth of July”. The main roles were played by Tom Cruise and Kira Sedgwick. From the previous film, in addition to Defoe, Tom Berenger was also involved.

Willem Dafoe and Johnny Depp in the movie "Crybaby"

At the same time, Tim Burton’s Batman appears on the screens. Initially, the role of the main villain, nicknamed the Joker, was to be played by Willem - in fact, the screenwriter Sam Hamm wrote this role under Defoe, but something did not work out and Jack Nicholson played. In 1990, he starred in the movie "Crybaby", in which the then young Johnny Depp played the main role.

In the same year he took part in the filming of David Lynch's film “Wild at Heart”. His partners on the set were Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. A year later, the movie John Milius (Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn), Flight of the Intruder, was released. In this tape, Defoe played the role of Lieutenant Virgil "Tiger" Cole. Willem was made up of Danny Glover and Rosanna Arquette.

Willem Dafoe and Madonna in the movie "Body Like Evidence"

In 1993, the film Uli Edel "Body as evidence" was released. The film contained many frank scenes, which is why he was credited with the soft porn genre. In addition to Defoe, the film was played by Madonna, Julianne Moore, Joe Mantegna, Frank Langella and Jurgen Prohnov.

1994 was marked for Defoe with the release of the film adaptation of Tom Clancy’s novel “The Direct and Explicit Threat”, which tells of special agent Jack Ryan, whose role was played by Harrison Ford. The tape was shot by Philip Noyce, director of the films Sliver, The Power of Fear and Salt.

Willem Dafoe in the film "The English Patient"

Two years later, the film “The English Patient” was released, shot by Anthony Minchella (“Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain”) based on the novel by Michael Ondatzhe. The film received 9 Oscars, 6 BAFTA Prizes, 4 US Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2 Golden Globes and 1 Grammy Award. The main roles were played by Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche.

1998 and 1999 - the years of cyberpunk in the works of Defoe. In 1998, the film adaptation of the story of William Gibson “Hotel New Rose”, filmed by Abel Ferrara, was released. In 2011, Defoe will star in his film “4:44. Last day on Earth ”, and in 2014 - in“ Pazolini ”.

Willem Dafoe in the movie Hotel New Rose

In addition to Willem, Christopher Walken and Asia Argento played in the tape. In 1999, David Cronenberg released a film (Fly, Videodrom, Scanners, Dead Zone) Existence with Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Lee in the lead roles.

Also in 1999, another cult film featuring Defoe was released - “The Boondock Saints” by Troy Duffy. In addition to Willem, who played the role of FBI agent Paul Slicker, the film starred Sean Patrick Flannery and star of the series The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus. Together with them Defoe starred in the sequel.

Willem Dafoe in the movie Boondock Saints

In 2000, American Psycho Mary Harron and The Shadow of the Vampire by Edmund Elias Meridge appeared in which Defoe played not the last roles (vampire Max Shrek aka Nosferatuiz Willema turned out to be really menacing, even despite the growth of 178 centimeters).

In 2002, Spider-Man appeared on world screens, giving a fresh start to films about superheroes. This project began to be developed back in 1986. At different times, filmmakers James Cameron, M. Night Shyamalan, Roland Emmerich, Jan de Bont, Chris Columbus and David Fincher were involved in the film adaptation of the comic. The final candidate was Sam Raimi, who shot the trilogy of the Evil Dead and the superhero movie “Man of Darkness” starring Liam Neeson.

Willem Dafoe in the movie Spider-Man

The main villain in the life of Spider-Man in the film was to be the Green Goblin. This role was offered to many actors, among whom were John Malkovich and Nicolas Cage, with whom Defoe starred earlier. Willem’s candidacy was not considered, but the actor was so captured by the role that he recorded his sample of the role on camera and handed over to Raimi, who appreciated the actor’s skill. As a result, Defoe starred in all three parts of the film about Spider-Man.

After working with Sam Raimi Defoe starred in Aviator (2004) Martin Scorsze, “Not Caught - Not a Thief” (2006) Spike Lee, “Antichrist” (2009) Lars von Trier, “Warriors of the Light” (2010) of the Spirigov brothers, “John Carter” (2012) by Andrew Stanton, “Hotel Grand Budapest” (2014) by Wes Anderson, “John Wick” (2014) by Chad Stahelsky and David Letch, as well as in many other paintings.

Willem Dafoe in the movie Man Smile

Separately, it is worth mentioning the short film "Smile Man", shot by the Russian director-newcomer Anton Lanshakov, a participant in the Jameson first shot contest Kevin Spacey. In total, the actor has almost 200 films. Willem also did not stop working as an actor in the theater.

Imra imrahil

Lighthouse (The Lighthouse), 2019

Madness under the cries of seagulls, or an aesthetic study of male nature

The end of the 19th century. On a deserted islet off the coast of the United States, two rangers of the local lighthouse come to replace. Chief Thomas Wake (Defoe) is a former sea wolf who has replaced many employees here over many years of work. Ifraim Winslow (Pattinson) is a young taciturn guy who has contracted to help Thomas for four long weeks.
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The relationship with the couple did not work out. Wake behaved impudently on the move, loading Ifraim with work above the roof, pushing them around as hell, threatening to cut back on wages and not letting him go to the top of the lighthouse. Winslow suffered, hoping to still receive the promised money. Despite rudeness, drunkenness of Wake and hallucinations visiting Ifrahim.
This went on until the guy realized that Thomas was hiding at the top of the lighthouse something truly mysterious and beautiful.

Personal life

In 1982, Willem's common-law wife Elizabeth LeCompte (head of the The Wooster Group Theater) gave birth to the actor's son Jack. At the beginning of the two thousandth pair broke up.

On March 25, 2005, Defoe married Italian actress Jade Colangrande, with whom he starred in the films Black Widow (2005), Woman (2010) and Pazolini (2014).

Willem Dafoe now

In 2017, three tapes with Defoe's participation should be released immediately. The first of these was an adaptation of the Death Note anime released by the Netflix streaming service. In this film, Willem played the role of the death god named Ryuk.

The next appearance of the actor should take place in the film adaptation of the detective novel by Agatha Christie, “Murder on the Orient Express,” shot by Kenneth Branagh (Kenneth himself will play the role of Hercule Poirot).

Willem Dafoe as Ryuk

The third tape in which Defoe will be involved is the Justice League. This time, the actor will perform the DC comic book character Nuidis Valko (Green Goblin was the brainchild of Marvel). By the way, in this film his spider-man colleague Jonathan Kimble Simmons will also star. On the Internet there are already photos from the filming of this film.

White crow

Willem's parents were doctors (William is a surgeon, Muriel is a nurse) and raised eight (!) Children. Willem was born penultimate - July 22, 1955. Defoe lived in the city of Appleton, Wisconsin. Willem was always different from his brothers and sisters - already in childhood, the actor lived in the boy. He loved making faces and joking - that was a way to attract attention. It is interesting that acting was only fate for Willem - the other brothers and sisters followed in the footsteps of their parents or learned to become lawyers. Here he is such a white crow!

So, the biography of Willem Dafoe continued at the University of Milwaukee, but he soon joined the Theater X youth troupe, and his studies were over. Until the age of 22 (four years), Willem honed his acting skills on endless tours, and then settled in New York and joined another theater, the Performance Group.

Legendary Platoon

In the movie, Willem appeared later - at the age of 26. He immediately played the main role - biker Vance in the drama Katherine Bigelow and Monty Montgomery "Without Love." True, this was preceded by short filming in the tape of the Oscar-winning laureate Michael Cimino "The Gates of Paradise." But the directorial version was reduced, and the role of Defoe during the installation was in the basket. Maybe this is for the best: Western failed at the box office and ruined the career of Cimino.

If the film “Without Love” did not attract attention to the young actor, then the military drama “Platoon” “produced” him into Oscar nominees. A picture of Oliver Stone with the participation of Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger made Defoe's face recognizable. In 1987, at the Oscar ceremony, the film was recognized as the best, all in all, there were four figurines in his "piggy bank", although Willem went home with nothing.

From Savior to Vampire

Soon the picture came out, causing fierce debate in religious circles, because Martin Scorsese dared to film the scandalous novel “The Last Temptation of Christ”. The master role was given by Defoe.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, many iconic roles appeared in the biography of Willem Dafoe. Among them are Caravaggio, an anti-fascist mutilated in dungeons (the melodrama The English Patient), Smecker, an FBI agent who loves to dress in women's clothing (an action movie full of black humor, The Boondock Saints), villain Bobby (the David Lynch thriller Wild heart ”, received the Golden palm branch).

The 2000s began for the actor enchantingly: he was again nominated for an Oscar for the role of a mysterious figure - Max Shrek, who played the Prince of Darkness at the time of the sunset of the dark film, Dracula, in the German horror film Nosferatu, Symphony of Horror. At one time, there were rumors that Murnau had found ... a real vampire, so Shrek is so convincing in an ominous image. The film “Shadow of the Vampire” tells the story of the creation of the film Murnau (of course, somewhat embellished), and in the role of Max, director Marridge saw only Defoe. Murnau was played by John Malkovich.

Birth and youth

Born July 22, 1955 in Appleton, Wisconsin, in the family of surgeon William Alfred Defoe and nurse Muriel Isabel. The actor has English, Scottish, Irish, German, Swiss, French and Italian roots source not specified 90 days . The seventh child in a family with eight children, he alone decided to choose an artistic path - the rest became lawyers or doctors. He studied drama at the University of Milwaukee (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), having not finished my studies, went on tour with the avant-garde theater “Theater X”. After four years of touring the United States and Europe, he settled in New York and became a member of the theater troupe The Performance Group, later transformed into The Wooster Group.

Green goblin and others

After watching this tape, Sam Raimi decided that his new project, Spider-Man, could not do without Willem and invited the actor to the role of the crazy scientist Norman Osbourne (Green Goblin). The character occasionally appeared in two sequels of the comic book.

Despite the fact that the directors often exploited Willem Dafoe's non-standard appearance (taking him on the roles of notorious villains and monsters), there were also “ordinary” dramatic roles in the artist’s biography. This is Roland from the biopic Scorsese “The Aviator”, Van Houten from the melodrama “Guilty Stars”, He is from von Trier’s existential drama “The Antichrist” (with which there are many disputes and protests). In addition, the artist voices the cartoon characters (“Finding Nemo”, “Tales of the Earthsea”, “Peerless Mr. Fox”).

Nevertheless, the “hobbyhorse" of the performer is characteristic roles. Such as the already mentioned Jolling, hired by the hero Adrian Brody to find a priceless picture and deal with its "captors". Killer, without ceremony, removes the witnesses and approaches his goal, it seems that this man does not have a drop of pity. Of course, in the film “Hotel Grand Budapest” there are a lot of bright characters, but even among them the hired killer that appeared on the screen is not very often lost.

Creative union

Willem has been practicing yoga for a long time, prefers an organic diet. For 27 years, Willem Dafoe's personal life flowed unchanged. He met Elizabeth LeCompt at the Performance Group and lived in a common-law marriage with her, founded the troupe The Wooster Group (Elizabeth is a theater director), and in 1982 they had a child, Jack.

Twenty years is not a hindrance

Filming the film "Black Widow" crossed out this long creative and family union. Defoe was invited to the drama "The Black Widow": in the story, his hero, a watchman, falls in love with a young mistress at home. Apparently, the feelings of the characters were transferred to Willem and Eleanor Jade Colagrande (she was also the director of the tape). The film was a failure, but in the spring of 2005, 29-year-old Italian Jada and 49-year-old Wille became husband and wife.


The first role was played in 1980 in the film Michael Cimino "The Gates of Paradise", but the frames with his participation were cut. The truly first appearance on the big screen for Defoe was the drama Katherine Bigelow "Without Love," in which he played the role of leader of a gang of bikers. This was followed by roles in Streets of Fire by Walter Hill and Live and Die in Los Angeles by William Fridkin. However, Defoe brought the world fame "Platoon" by Oliver Stone. The military drama was recognized as the best film of the year, and the actor received his first Oscar nomination. In 1988, Defoe played one of his main roles - the actor appeared in the image of Jesus in the controversial drama by Martin Scorsese “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Also in 1989, Defoe was considered for the role of the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman. Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm noted: "Defoe was born to play the role of the Joker." But the role is still given to Jack Nicholson.

In the late 1980s and the first half of the 1990s Defoe could be seen both in the main roles and in the roles of the second plan. He has worked with such directors as Alan Parker, David Lynch, Wim Wenders. In 1996, he starred with Anthony Mingella in "The English Patient." The film adaptation of the novel by Michael Ondatzhe earned over 200 million dollars in world box office and received nine Oscars. Defoe performed one of his brightest roles in the cult crime comedy “The Boondock Saints”. The film of Troy Duffy received low critics' ratings and never went on a wide release, however, after the release on video (more than $ 50 million of “video fees”) it acquired a cult status, largely due to the exceptional game of Defoe.

In 2001, the actor received his second Oscar nomination, this time for the role of Max Shrek in the extravagant Shadow of the Vampire by E. Elias Meridge. Defoe was also nominated for a Golden Globe and received Saturn, Fantasporto and Independent Spirit awards. Seeing Defoe in this picture, the producers invited him to be the main villain in Spider-Man. The role of the Green Goblin has become one of the actor’s calling cards. After Spider-Man, the actor continued to alternate between major studio projects and auteur cinema, as well as the main roles with episodic screen appearances. In the 2000s, Willem worked with directors such as Abel Ferrara, Werner Herzog, Wes Anderson, Lars Von Trier, Spike Lee, Theo Angelopolus.

In 2013, Defoe voiced and also provided his appearance for the protagonist of the video game "Beyond: Two Souls" Dr. Nathan Dawkins.

In 2014, he joined the jury of the 67th Cannes Film Festival. In the same year, with the participation of Willem Defoe, the melodrama “Blame the Stars” was released, where he played a fictional writer, “Hotel Grand Budapest”, the biopic “Pazolini” in which he played the role of the legendary Italian film director Pierre Paolo Pazolini, the spy thriller “ The Most Dangerous Man ”and the action movie“ John Wick. ”

For his role in the film Project Florida (2017), Defoe was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Supporting Actor. Also, in 2017, the picture “Murder on the Orient Express” was released, based on the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie, in which Defoe played the role of Professor Gerhard Hardman, one of the passengers on the train.

On September 3, 2018, as part of the official competition of the 75th Venice Film Festival, the premiere of the film “Van Gogh. On the threshold of eternity. " For playing the role of Vincent Van Gogh, the famous artist, Willem Dafoe received the Volpi Cup. In addition, for the main role in the film, the actor is nominated for a Golden Globe. The film was released in Russian hire on February 7, 2019.

In December 2018, Defoe appeared in the fantastic action movie "Aquaman" in the company of Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Dolph Lundgren and Nicole Kidman.

Theatrical work

  • Life and Death of Marina Abramovich is an experimental opera based on the biography of performance master Marina Abramovich. The premiere took place in February 2011 at the international festival in Manchester.
  • “The Old Woman” is a performance in the genre of physical theater based on the work of the same name by Daniil Kharms. Collaboration (production, set design, concept of light) directed by Robert Wilson, actor Willem Defoe and dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. The premiere took place on July 4, 2013 at the international festival in Manchester.


Watch the video: Willem Dafoe Biography & Lifestyle. Unknown Facts, Girlfriends & Affairs, Income. Oscars 2019 (April 2020).