WILLEM DAFOE: MONSTROUS KINKY

What was the most satisfying thing about the success of Spider-Man?
That’s a tough one… I really like Sam Rami and I like a lot of the people involved in the movie. I like Toby, Kirsten, I like the principal people the producers. I like the way the studio treated Sam and it’s nice to see everybody in a good environment get rewarded with success that way. And Sam made a film he really gave his heart to.

You seem to now have the luxury of being in blockbuster pictures and edgy independent films. In fact, I think the last thing I saw you in was amazing was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi. How does that feel as an actor to be able to really challenge yourself and then do something fun like Spider-Man?
Y’know, when you’re there, you’re there. It’s all about mixing it up. It’s about changing ways of working. Changing intentions, so each time you work on something, you can reinvent your way of doing things. It keeps you from becoming cynical and it keeps you still loving the work and keeping it mysterious and challenging. And always forces you to go back to square one.

How do you keep in such insane good shape? I’m working on trying to get rid of this gut I’m developing. I saw you doing some scenes shirtless and there’s not an ounce of body fat on you.
I work in the theater most of the time and that keeps you pretty fit. And I’m a daily yoga practitioner.

Any diet tips you can throw my way?
I’m basically a vegetarian and I think that makes a huge difference.

Let’s talk about Auto Focus, were you aware of Bob Crane’s off screen antics before you took this part?
I wasn’t. Certainly I knew “Hogan’s Heroes,” and I remember when Bob Crane was murdered. But I remember it in a very sketchy way and I knew there were some exposes and stuff in the tabloids.

What attracts you to such difficult parts?
I try to ask what’s the consistent thing… but I do know that I like to work from a place of curiosity and not knowing. Not knowing where it’s going to lead me, which sounds kind of very brave and self congratulatory. It’s more about if I see it too clearly, I can’t get up about it. To work on a project it has to be a proposal for an adventure to find something out that I may never know. But the impulse comes from curiosity so that forces you to be attracted to things that’s ambiguous stuff that’s complex.

What was it like to work with legendary director Paul Schrader?
Well, I’ve worked with Paul Schrader twice before, he’s a personal friend. So I know him. I know how he thinks. He’s a very strong writer. He does a lot of work in the casting and in the design and in the screenplay, so when you get on the set, this sort of contradicts what I said about character, he’s very pragmatic when you get down to shooting. I just like how his mind works and the stories he tells. He’s asked me three times to help him tell him. That’s what I’m always looking for – someone that’s passionate about a story to tell that they can’t tell by themselves, so they need help.

There’s always those amazing moments in scripts that I know attract actors to parts. How do you get to that place where you know – this is my moment to shine?
You don’t know the moments that are going to be interesting. Sometimes the moments you think are going to be interesting, go flat when you’re shooting them. I don’t think you ever know. It’s partly by virtue of the fact that you’re doing one thing and someone manipulates it into something else. There’s no science to it. I don’t just look at a role as I said before. If I see it too clearly, it usually leaves me cold. The story completes itself. The mystery is gone. The ambiguity is forced. There’s no room to personalize it — to make it specific. All you do is present something that’s already cut out and that’s not so interesting.

Did you do research for your role?
Well, the character I play in this movie is based on a real person. So I used as much material as I could. I talked to his ex-wife. I talked to old friends. I saw old video footage, read letters, but at the same time I didn’t feel an obligation to set the record straight about this guy. We’re making fiction. It’s based on a true story but to some degree, John Carpenter in our story is an invention. But we used the real John Carpenter the historical Carpenter to guide us.

One last question, do you have your own theory about Johnny Carpenter’s role in Bob Crane’s death?
I do, but I, um, it’s not something I can express with certainty and I think it’s not a good idea for me to express it.




Posted on October 11, 2002 in Interviews by

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