Willem Dafoe: The Triumph of Willem

"It's definitely not Rocky Fights the Nazis," says Willem Dafoe, who plays a Holocaust-era boxer in the recently released Triumph of the Spirit. "Perhaps it didn't go as far with its message as people would like or cover any new ground, but I look at it as a movie that's a noble failure at worst."

"Besides," he smiles, "after Last Temptation of Christ, I think I'm thick-skinned enough to handle any criticism."

Dafoe, who's just done time on the Hawaiian island of Kauai shooting Flight of the Intruder, John Milius's take on Vietnam, clearly wants to do mainstream movies that can be commercial and controversial at the same time. "I turn down a lot of movies that Mickey Rourke ends up doing," he says matter-of-factly, citing Johnny Handsome and the upcoming Wild Orchid as examples. "I think there are people in Hollywood who imagine I want to be a cult star or a serious artist," (no doubt a reaction to his being a dedicated member of the absurdist, deconstructionist New York theatre collective, the Wooster Group). But Dafoe says he enjoys being a team player, mixing with the crew and distorting the image of "a New York actor who knows nothing about life except the theatre."

What's missing from his resume is a comic or romantic lead, but Dafoe says that's about to be remedied by a movie he's developing called Arrive Alive. "I'm going to play an affable detective helping a crazy lady solve a crime in Miami Beach."

Thank God--we can't see Mickey Rourke in this role at all.


Craig Modderno