- Warning: Spoilers below if you haven’t seen “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
- Willem Dafoe reprises his role as Green Goblin and proves no one does outlandish performances better.
- Dafoe is even better than Nicolas Cage when it comes to playing unhinged.
In a year when outlandish performances by the likes of Lady Gaga in “House of Gucci” and Ben Affleck in “The Last Duel” are all the rage, Willem Dafoe basically pulls a “hold my beer” in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and proves he is the greatest when it comes to playing an unhinged character.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
In the movie, Dafoe reprises his role as Norman Osborn — an industrialist who turns into a green suited/bomb-throwing madman after taking a super-soldier formula — AKA Green Goblin, from the Tobey Maguire-era “Spider-Man” movies of the early 2000s.
As one of the Spidey villains plucked from the multiverse, the actor first is a frightened Osborn who befriends Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). But suddenly the psychotic Green Goblin comes out leading to chaos and the death of May.
Dafoe’s Jekyll and Hyde act is done to perfection and topped by his sinister manic snarl in which it looks like his pointy eyebrows are just going to slice into his evil beady eyes.
But Dafoe’s talents of playing a crazed lunatic should not come as a surprise to those who have followed his career. For decades now the four-time Oscar-nominated actor has cultivated one of the most diverse filmographies in the business, but it’s highlighted by several memorable performances in which it looks like he’s literally losing his mind on screen — and loving every minute of it.
Though “No Way Home” is unequivocal proof that he’s the best to ever play a psycho, it’s also simply an appetizer of the deranged performances Dafoe has given us over the years.
Willem Dafoe has played a plethora of brilliant psychopaths over the years
One of Dafoe’s earliest roles, 1985’s “To Live and Die in L.A.,” showed off his sinister talents as he played an evil counterfeiter. Then over a decade later, he was in his element playing a crazed cruise ship hijacker in 1997’s “Speed 2: Cruise Control.” In 1999, he gave a completely over the top performance as an FBI agent in “The Boondock Saints.” For 2000’s “Shadow of the Vampire” he was so convincing playing the legendary vampire character from the classic silent film “Nosferatu” that it earned him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. And in 2019 we couldn’t keep our eyes off him opposite Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers who slowly go mad in “The Lighthouse.”
These performances, topped off by his Green Goblin, cement Dafoe as the king of playing unhinged characters.
Some of you may be screaming “NICOLAS CAGE” while reading this, but Dafoe tops him too.
Yes, Cage has leveraged his madman act into icon status. And he has definitely given us more ridiculous characters than Defoe has. But, it’s more quality than quantity when it comes to Dafoe, and if you compare the two, it’s evident Dafoe has the edge.
Dafoe starred alongside Nic Cage in two movies and outdid him on both occasions
In fact, they have starred in the same movies a few times, and in those instances, Dafoe upstages Cage when it comes to whacked-out performances.
For David Lynch’s 1990 classic “Wild at Heart,” Cage plays an Elvis-obsessed renegade who loves his snakeskin jacket as much as his love Lula (Laura Dern). But when Dafoe enters more than halfway through as psycho gangster Bobby Peru with his deranged look — bad teeth, pencil-thin mustache, and slicked-back hair — he completely steals the movie.
Paul Schrader’s little-seen 2016 crime caper “Dog Eat Dog” has the two actors taking things further to the edge, but once again Dafoe bests Cage. Playing ex-cons hired to do a kidnapping, Dafoe plays a character named Mad Dog and he certainly is. Mad Dog goes berserk and kills his girlfriend after she finds his stash of porn at the beginning of the movie.
At the end of the day, both are master craftsmen when it comes to the art of being unhinged on screen, but Dafoe’s has arguably led to more acclaim.
With his scene-stealing Green Goblin performance in “No Way Home,” Dafoe is a major reason why the movie is having historic box office success. But it’s also a culmination of Dafoe’s dedication to the craft of acting a fool.
It will hopefully not just inspire a new generation to seek out his performance in the early “Spider-Man” movies, but also his other masterful work.