Willem Dafoe Talks Playing Real-Life Characters, Confronting Fear | Actor Roundtable
"Once you get in that place of not knowing, you've been there before, and it kind of gives you this courage that you wouldn't normally have," Dafoe said of his process working on 'The Florida Project.'
"One of the most beautiful things about [The Florida Project] is Sean Baker [Tangerine], the director, knows how to mix actual things with fiction," Willem Dafoe told The Hollywood Reporter during the Actor Roundtable. "We were shooting in an operating motel, and we were there basically living with those people. I didn't have a trailer, I'd have my little room, and I was next to Troy, and so-and-so. … I'd talk to them, they'd talk to me. Those people became my people."
Dafoe added, "When you approach something, you have to close the difference between them and us, and they become you. The generosity of those people, opening themselves up, and letting us be at their place, to mix with them and tell their story was what, I think, gives the film some integrity, and isn't just some exploitative thing of a bunch of overpaid people from Hollywood sweeping down on a challenged community and telling their story."
On the topic of dealing with fear as an actor, Dafoe discussed how confronting the unknown can bring about "courage."
"It's kind of fashionable for actors to say, 'I like to do things that really scare me,' but it's true," he said. "But it's more about, if you're really conscientious and you really tap into a sort of wonder and a certain kind of process of creating something rather than just interpreting something, once you get in that place of not knowing, you've been there before, and it kind of gives you this courage that you wouldn't normally have, that you don't normally have in life."
Dafoe's performance in Florida Project is earning the veteran actor awards buzz. He previously garnered two Oscar nominations for his supporting roles in Platoon and Shadow of a Vampire.
The full Actor Roundtable also features James Franco, John Boyega, Gary Oldman, Sam Rockwell and Tom Hanks, and airs on SundanceTV, Sunday, Jan. 28. Tune in to THR.com/roundtables for more roundtables featuring talent from the year’s top films.