Toronto: Willem Dafoe Talks His Bushy Beard Look in 'Motherless Brooklyn' and 'The Lighthouse'

Motherless Brooklyn Still 2 - EDWARD NORTON-WILLEM DAFOE - Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

"I look at that movie and think, 'Really, I grew that?'" the actor said.

Willem Dafoe is at the Toronto International Film Festival with two movies, The Lighthouse and Motherless Brooklyn — both of which feature the actor sporting a bushy beard.

That's not a coincidence, Dafoe told a press conference for Edward Norton's Motherless Brooklyn, a 1950s-set crime drama about a private detective with Tourette's syndrome. The actor recalled already growing a beard to play a salty lighthouse keeper in Robert Eggers's The Lighthouse, where he appeared opposite Robert Pattinson.

And at the same time, Norton, at long last knowing his movie was a go, approached Dafoe to also have him join his quirky detective drama. "I said, Edward, really? Are you sure you want to me to play this, because I'm committed to growing this beard," Dafoe recalled answering.

For Norton, who had long envisioned Dafoe for the role of Paul, a disgraced engineer, he didn't immediately picture a beard. "When I was thinking of the character of Paul, I thought, 'Who has a face that's looks like the world has beat them down?'" the actor-director recounted.

Norton added that it was serendipity that Dafoe did sport a beard in Motherless Brooklyn. "When I watch the film, I couldn't be happier we did that. ... I love the way the beard makes Paul feels he's in the margins of polite society," he insisted.

Asked whether he liked wearing a beard, a clean-shaven Dafoe told the TIFF presser, "No, I look at that movie, and even this movie, and think, 'Really, I grew that?' I don't even remember. It grows by itself."

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sunday.