Willem Dafoe talks about the one man movie ‘Inside’ and explains why he does such original things

INTERIOR, Willem Dafoe, 2023. © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

Willem Dafoe in Inside. (Photo: © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Willem Dafoe is so beloved among moviegoers that it’s hard to imagine anyone caring that his new movie Inside it has only one central actor: Willem Dafoe.

The four-time Oscar nominee stars as Nemo, an art thief who becomes trapped in a billionaire’s deserted New York City penthouse, increasingly desperate for survival as days go by with minimal food. and water. And despite its one-man cast, the Vasilis Katsoupis-directed thriller remains thoroughly tense thanks to Dafoe’s characteristically committed and bold performance.

“It’s just a different way of working, and a lot of what I do is action-based and physical, and those are things I’m very comfortable with,” Dafoe, 67, tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview. “A certain type of dramaturgy is ruled out, a certain type of traditional stage work. In this case, it’s liberating. You have to find another way to express things, and finding that way was part of our job.” (See the full interview below.)

What the film is not, at least Dafoe knows, is an unexpected homage to Finding Nemo. However, more than a couple of YouTubers have pointed out the curious parallels between Katsoupis’ art-thriller and Pixar’s 2003 animated favorite. Dafoe’s character is named Nemo. He’s basically trapped in a glass box. There’s even a Dory-like Blue Hippo Tang fish (although you can imagine what happens to a hungry art thief). Dafoe even voiced a fish, the Moorish idol Gil, in Finding Nemo and its 2016 sequel Finding Dory.

“Can I tell you something? I didn’t even know this character’s name was Nemo,” Dafoe admits. ? [Or] they were identifying all the tropical fish in the tank Finding Nemo.”

INTERIOR, Willem Dafoe, 2023. © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

Willem Dafoe in a scene from Inside. (Photo: © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Inside continues a remarkable streak of high-quality, deeply original films from Dafoe, from The Florida Project (2017) and Vox Lux (2018) to The lighthouse (2019), nightmare alley (2021) and the northerner (2022). To what do you attribute your ability to continue finding such unique work?

“I have an excellent agent and an excellent manager. I love them, but I also read a lot,” says Dafoe. “I check things. I try to think outside the box. I try to do what is right for me and not necessarily take the industry standard or do what my colleagues do. That sounds a bit full of myself, but no, I read a lot. Yes. And I’m always looking for things that excite me. I love working and the important thing is… I always want to find a way to see myself again, or see what I do again. So when I see opportunities to do that, I usually take them. So I’m always looking for that.

“I have nothing to sell. I like being on a film set. I like the collaborative nature of this. I like the social aspect of it, and it’s an adventure. Every day is different. But somewhere deep down, I’m always looking for something to lift me up and make me do something I haven’t done before. Because God knows we all need a kick in the pants.”

Online, people have long been enjoying a viral GIF of Dafoe, sitting in the back of a car, eyes wild and a maniacal grin, as the camera gradually jogs him. And while it’s one of the most common images you’ll see of him, it’s actually from one of his least-seen projects: a 2013 short film Dafoe made called the man with the smileDirected by Anton Lanshakov.

“That’s a short film I made as part of this competition that gave money to young filmmakers to make these short films,” he says. I am aware of these things [online] because people tell me I try not to look for them, but sometimes when people tell me, I just go with them.”

And yes, he gets a text with his smile man GIF.

“Oh yeah,” he laughs. “Usually it’s the family or someone who gets turned on and wants to share it.”

Inside opens in theaters on March 17.

Watch the trailer:

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