Willem Dafoe is such a captivating actor. He commits himself 100% to roles that are so intense and unhinged. Born William James Dafoe on July 22, 1955, in Appleton, Wisconsin, the award-winning actor has an impressive 142 acting credits since 1980, with 11 upcoming projects. He has five sisters and two brothers. Because his father was a surgeon and his mother a nurse, Dafoe’s sisters raised him because of their crazy busy work schedules.
Willem’s Pursuit of Acting
He studied drama at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee but dropped out less than two years later to join an experimental theater company. In 1976, Willem moved to New York City. This is where he met and became romantically involved with experimental director Elizabeth LeCompte. After a falling out with an avant-garde theater troupe, Dafoe joined LeCompte’s newly taken-over theater group, renamed The Wooster Group, which Dafoe is credited as one of its co-founders (he continued his work with the group into the 2000s). Dafoe and LeCompte share a son named Jack.
By 1980, Willem made his film debut in Heaven’s Gate (1980) but was fired during production and was uncredited despite one of his scenes making it into the final cut. A year later, he landed the lead role for The Loveless. He appeared in supporting roles in a few films throughout the 80s, but his big break was in 1988 as Jesus Christ in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and as FBI Agent Alan Ward in Mississippi Burning.
Check out our list of five fantastic Willem Dafoe roles that blew us away and made us fans for life.