Biographic by Steve McGarry for January 03, 2010
Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on July 22, 1955, the surgeon's son William Dafoe studied drama at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Changing the spelling of his name to Willem, he spent the early years of his career touring the U.S. and Europe with Wisconsin's avant-garde Theatre X acting troupe before joining The Performance Group in New York City. His role in 1980's "Heaven's Gate" was cut from the final version, so he had to wait until 1982's "The Loveless" to make his screen debut. Roles in the likes of "Streets of Fire" and "To Live and Die in L.A." Led to his big break in 1986 with the role of the doomed Sgt. Elias in "Platoon" which earned him an Oscar Nomination. He starred in two of the decade's most controversial films "The Last Temptation of Christ." Which was condemned as blasphemous in some quarters, and the civil rights-era drama, "Mississippi Burning" which sparked controversy across the full span of the political spectrum. His commitment to meticulous research was evidenced by his preparation for his role in "Triumph of the Spirit" a 1989 movie about a concentration camp boxer that was filmed on Location in Auschwitz. Dafoe shed 20 pounds in weight and sparred with Mike Tyson's former trainer. He has gone on to establish himself as one of the most accomplished and versatile actors in American cinema, with roles in movies as diverse as the dark thriller "Americal Psycho" and the animated blockbuster "Finding Nemo" he earned his second Academy Award nomination for his work in the 2000 horror movie "Shadow of the Vampire" but was equally at home in such lighter fare as "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and "Mr. Bean's Holiday" Following his portrayal of The Green Goblin in the Spider-Man movies, his recent credits have ranged from "Fantastic Mr. Fox" to "Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" and "Daybreakers"