You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Willem Dafoe on Robert Pattinson, Choosing Roles, Acting as Adventure

MORELIA, Mexico – Mindful of how his words could “turn into click-bait,” Willem Dafoe, in Morelia to present his latest film “The Lighthouse,” declined to comment about the looming advent of more streaming giants in the market. “It’s a complex question; we’re still forming ideas on how people see films and how films are being made,” he said. However, he later observed: “I still like film a lot, not just for its quality but the intention is stronger; you can’t just shoot and shoot like you can on digital film, so it changes how you think, it weeds out the laziness in performances,” he mused.

Speaking in a clear and measured pace for nearly an hour with festival director Daniela Michel and for a subsequent Q & A with the audience, a cerebral Dafoe talked about his craft, his role choices, “Lighthouse” director Robert Eggers and of course, the future Batman, Robert Pattinson, who he plays opposite in “The Lighthouse.” “He’s a hard worker, very self-effacing; a nice guy,” he said. “He never liked to rehearse or plan anything because he wanted everything to be a surprise,” he noted, although they did rehearse for five days mainly for the precise camera placements in Egger’s 1890s-set drama, shot in black-and-white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio.

Dafoe related how he asked for a meeting with Eggers soon after seeing his feature debut, “The Witch.” “He’s about the age of my son, but I didn’t feel the age difference; I  felt in him the energy, a passion and a connection that he had for the past,” he said. “It almost feels like he can express his experiences today by telling stories that are set in the past,” he observed.

He talked about the arduous shoot where it was just him and Pattinson pitted against each other, where cameras broke down because of the cold and wet conditions: “It was the kind of weather that pushes you and makes you fierce; weather is a huge character in this movie,” he said.

Asked how he chose the past roles he has played, he responded: “I don’t really choose the character, I choose situations and people.”

“It’s about the sense of discovery,” he added. “It’s good to get away from yourself, not that I don’t like myself but when you do the bidding of someone else, it’s like falling in love: you have a new energy, you don’t think about yourself, you’re on an adventure, you’re waking up and it’s always better when it’s through someone else; you become their creature.”

“Movies find me and I find movies, I like to mix it up,” he said, advocating for varied roles as the “greatest protection against a certain kind of corruption.” “Some people fall asleep in their lives because they don’t allow change to happen,” he mused.

Asked about his upcoming role in Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” adaptation, Dafoe quipped, “If I didn’t like him, I wouldn’t be working with him.”

Dafoe is also set to star in his wife Giada Colagrande’s Brazil-set noirish thriller “Tropico” next year alongside Morena Baccarin and Pedro Pascal.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Atlantics

    Variety Names 10 Directors to Watch for 2020

    Before film critics start summing up the present year at the movies with a deluge of Top 10 lists, Variety gazes into the medium’s future by announcing its annual 10 Directors to Watch — a lineup of filmmaking talents who’ve stood out on the recent festival circuit, or whose movies will soon be hitting screens [...]

  • Napa Valley Film Festival Winners: 'Lucky

    'Lucky Grandma' Wins Napa Valley Film Festival Narrative Feature Prize

    “Lucky Grandma,” “The Remix: Hip Hop in Fashion” and “The Nomads” were among the winners of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which ran Nov. 13-17 in various towns in the valley. The winner of the narrative feature was “Lucky Grandma,” presented by ZD Wines, which won a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley. [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    'Ad Astra' to Blast Off in China in December

    The Brad Pitt-starring sci-fi blockbuster “Ad Astra” will land in Chinese theaters on December 6, more than two months after its U.S. debut. Directed, co-written and produced by James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”), the thriller also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Pitt plays an astronaut [...]

  • Fred Wolf to Direct 'Love 40'

    Film News Roundup: Fred Wolf to Direct Tennis Rom-Com 'Love 40'

    In today’s film news roundup, Fred Wolf is directing a romantic comedy in New York; Leah Remini, Chinoye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang receive honors; and the topless bar documentary “Red Dog” finds a home. ‘LOVE 40’ Bluewater Lane Productions has brought on Fred Wolf to co-write and direct the romantic comedy “Love 40,” [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Lupita Nyong'o Follows Hollywood's Tradition of Two Roles in One Film

    Peter Sellers played three roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 “Dr. Strangelove.” In December of that year, Variety reported that Columbia was mounting an Oscar campaign for lead actor, but was also considering three supporting-actor campaigns, for each of his characters. (They settled on one campaign, and Sellers’ nomination as lead actor was one of the [...]

  • 'Legion' TV show premiere

    Noah Hawley to Write and Direct Next 'Star Trek' Movie

    “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley has been tapped to write and direct the next installment of the “Star Trek” franchise, sources tell Variety. Though plot details are being kept under wraps, sources tell Variety the next “Star Trek” is expected to see Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana returning to man [...]

  • Paramount Movie Theater Paramount Consent Decree

    Why Eliminating the Paramount Antitrust Decrees Won't Shake Up the Movie Business

    The Paramount Decrees have been the rules of the road for Hollywood since the golden age of movies, but the Justice Department’s decision to do away with directives that were hammered out decades before the rise of cable or streaming has barely registered within the entertainment industry. That’s because they are widely seen as anachronisms [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content