Willem Dafoe Interview: ‘The Florida Project’
“It’s a world that people haven’t seen before,” divulges Willem Dafoe as we chat via webcam (watch the exclusive video interview above) about his new film “The Florida Project.” He adds, “I think it has a kind of humanist view that people will be touched by.” Directed by Sean Baker (“Tangerine”), this A24 release follows a precocious young girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) as she goes on adventures with her friends and rebellious mother (Bria Vinaite) while living in a ramshackle Florida motel in Orlando near Disney World. Dafoe plays Bobby, the kindhearted and patriarchal motel manager.
“He wears a lot of hats,” describes the actor of Bobby. “He’s a complex character in that he has to deal with all the different residents in lots of different ways. He’s part father figure to the children, he’s part janitor, he’s part policeman. He’s all kinds of things, and with each person, the way he deals with them is quite specific.” One of the things Dafoe loved about the character is that “he’s not an extraordinarily gifted person… he’s a working class guy just trying to make it day-to-day. But his kind of pride in his work, and his optimism in a really difficult situation, is touching to me.”
Dafoe received Oscar nominations as Best Supporting Actor for “Platoon” (1986) and “Shadow of the Vampire” (2000). He also received Golden Globe and SAG nominations for “Shadow.” At SAG, he was nominated as part of the film ensembles for “The English Patient” (1996) and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014).
Throughout his lengthy career, he has worked with such acclaimed filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Lars von Trier, Oliver Stone, Kathryn Bigelow, Alan Parker, Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg, John Waters, and Paul Schrader. Could “The Florida Project” bring him his first career Academy Award after more than 30 years in the business? Our experts, editors, and users certainly think so, since he currently holds first place odds.