MORELIA, Mexico – Willem Dafoe will play the lead in “Opus Zero,” the directorial debut of Oz producer Daniel Graham, which starts shooting next week in Mexico. Dafoe revealed his new role while attending the 14th Morelia Int’l Film Fest as a guest of honor and to co-present the world premiere of “Padre,” the latest pic by his wife, Italian filmmaker Giada Colagrande. Graham was the line producer of “Post Tenebras Lux,” directed by Carlos Reygadas who boards the project as an associate producer. “Opus Zero” leads an ambitious slate from Julio Chavezmontes’ Mexico City-based production-distribution house, Piano. Sutor Kolonko y Maze Pictures co-produce.
Dafoe will play a musicologist grieving over the demise of his father who settles in the town of Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi. While there, he tries to reconstruct an early 20th century symphony by a Norwegian composer, and gets drawn into investigating the disappearance of a woman from the village. Dafoe leads a cast that includes Mexican thesps Irene Azuela, Cassandra Ciangherotti and Brontis Jodorowsky. Graham wrote “Opus Zero.” Chavezmontes produces; Ingmar Trost, Jörg Schulze, and Andreas Zielke co-produce.
In a massively attended “conversation” with Sight & Sound’s Nick Roddick, Dafoe said he had been chastised for revealing his role in the pic. “The drama is in Spanish and English, and I’ll be speaking in English,” he said, apologizing for not speaking Spanish. But that it was next on his list, after mastering Italian, he added.
Known for straddling both studio and indie films, Dafoe recently finished work on the Zhang Yimou epic drama, “The Great Wall” and DC Comics’ “Justice League” by Zack Snyder. Cheers broke out when he announced he would next star in “Aquaman,” to be directed by James Wan. “I never decided on being an actor. I just gravitated towards situations and people, and after a certain amount of time, I said to myself, well I guess I’m an actor,” said Dafoe who recalls getting his first paid role at the age of 13 and credits Kathryn Bigelow for giving him his first film role in her directorial debut, “The Loveless.” He doesn’t count the time he was a “glorified extra” in Michael Cimino’s disastrous “Heaven’s Gate” where he was fired for laughing on set.
“I believe in the cinema that comes from one voice so I’m very interested in working with strong directors,” said Dafoe who has worked in more than a 100 films and with the likes of Abel Ferrara, Paul Schrader, and Martin Scorsese.
To the delight of Morelia Festival director Daniela Michel, who stood in the theatre aisle, he said: “Film festivals are very important because they keep the dialogue alive, and they also help some films that if they were just thrown out into the marketplace, would not be introduced in the right way.’ He added: “Alleluia for this film festival and others that don’t just function as arms of the local tourism bureau.”