Honorary Golden Bear for Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe has participated in more than 100 film productions, enriching them with his expressive performances and formidable presence. His enormous technical range as an actor extends all the way from the personification of the unfathomably evil to the portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth. In addition to his celebrated cinematic appearances, Dafoe has also pursued a parallel career in theater, his other passion.
Willem Dafoe began studying theatre formally at the age of 17. In 1977, he was one of the founding members of the renowned New York theater ensemble “The Wooster Group”, where he remained a member for several decades. In addition to his activities on stage, Dafoe increasingly began to turn his attention to film work starting in the early 1980s. He first gained exposure through his appearance in Kathryn Bigelow’s debut film The Loveless (1981) and in Streets of Fire (1984) by Walter Hill.
In 1986, Dafoe’s portrayal of Sergeant Elias Grodin in Oliver Stone’s anti-war drama Platoon would expose him to a wider audience. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his performance in the break-through film. Two years later, Martin Scorsese successfully recruited him to fill the leading role as Jesus Christ in his hotly debated literary adaptation The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Still in the same year, Dafoe co-starred alongside Gene Hackman in director Alan Parker’s civil-rights-era drama Mississippi Burning (1988).
In the year 2000, Dafoe shined as Max Schreck in the horror film Shadow of the Vampire by director E. Elias Merhige. His brilliant turn as a member of the undead earned him his second Academy Award nomination.
In 2002 Dafoe appeared under the direction of Paul Schrader in the biopic Auto Focus. In 2004 Dafoe collaborated with director Wes Anderson on the latter’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Parallel to these appearances, he slipped into the role of Norman Osborn, aka the villainous “Green Goblin”, three times for the Spider-Man movie franchise (in 2002, 2004 and 2007).
In 2009 Danish director Lars von Trier cast him as the male lead alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg in his psycho-thriller Antichrist — the film became the subject of controversy due to scenes featuring graphic sex and violence. In 2011 Dafoe put on an extraordinary acting performance once again as a lonely hunter in Daniel Nettheim’s thriller The Hunter. Three years later, in Abel Ferrara’s biopic Pasolini Dafoe portrayed the Italian filmmaker in the final period of his life, shortly before his murder.
He has just finished filming under the direction of Julian Schnabel for At Eternity’s Gate, in which he plays Vincent van Gogh. From March 2018 onwards, German cinema audiences will be able to see Willem Dafoe in the much feted feature The Florida Project (directed by Sean Baker). Dafoe’s role in The Florida Project earned him both a nomination for the British BAFTA Awards and recently his third nomination for an Academy Award, in the category of Best Supporting Actor.