Spider-Man's Arch-Dafoe Part Two (Mania.com)
By:Arnold T. Blumberg
Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002
In part one of CINESCAPE's profile on SPIDER-MAN co-star Willem Dafoe, the actor discussed his interest in playing Spidey's archenemy the Green Goblin. In part two he describes the challenge of performing in a full-faced Goblin mask and the film's elaborate stunt sequences.
Dafoe acknowledges that while the Green Goblin looks a bit different in the film compared to his rubbery comic book features, that was one of many choices the movie team made after a lot of research and development.
"Before I was even involved, they worked with prosthetics," says Dafoe. "In the comic book, he wears a rubber mask, but it just felt too light, too insubstantial. They weren't happy with it. They tried a mask, they tried prosthetic pieces, and I wasn't privy to that stuff."
Willem Dafoe stars as Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN
© Sony Pictures
In the end, the frozen features of the movie Goblin also provided a sounding board for Dafoe's Norman Osborn, as the mad industrialist with dual personalities soliloquizes with himself in some of the film's creepier scenes.
"Basically, [he's] Dr. Jekyll [and] Mr. Hyde," says Dafoe. "Anytime we get a problem, we weigh the pros and cons. That's basically what is being played out and I think if there was anything difficult about it, it was just the distinctness between each voice so they didn't slide into each other, yet at the same time feel like they could come from the same person."
Dafoe never felt at a disadvantage while actually wearing the mask, either. To him it provided an essential key to Osborn's mania.
"Sometimes you take away certain things and then it makes you stronger in other areas," says Dafoe. "Like someone that loses the use of their legs becomes very strong in their arms. Then you have to do more vocally or in a physical gesture. Since the Green Goblin is a product of Norman Osborn and there are parallels from Norman's and Peter Parker's relationship to the Green Goblin and Spider-Man, the mask truly is a look that you can project things onto. So, you don't need to see everything. You don't always have to know what people are thinking to get in their heads. The fact that there is not a lot expressed in the mask was okay for me."
Dafoe does accede, however, that certain dialogue-heavy sequences were a challenge when hidden behind the mask's unmoving features.
"In one scene where Spider-Man is incapacitated and I'm off the glider, we have lots of dialogue. How do you keep that alive? It's problematic. You do the best you can to find ways to enliven the scene."
It's clear from many of Dafoe's responses that he takes a very laid-back approach to acting, at least after the fact. He prefers to let the work speak for itself, but when asked about cut material, he does let his guard down just a bit.
Willem Dafoe is Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin
© Sony Pictures
"The story is structured and complicated, so it's not a question of scenes dropping out, it's more about scenes getting trimmed," says Dafoe. "When Norman has a reconciliation with his son or an apology anyway before he hugs him, there is a moment that I personally loved when he says, 'I love you son.' But they cut it out and I think you know why, because in the very next scene, the Green Goblin tries to kill Peter Parker and there was a question of loyalty. Now, I liked it because it complicated the mix, it complicates your loyalties, but I think it becomes too risky when they try to calculate what the effect is."
One effect that definitely had to be calculated was the amount of stunt and wirework that Dafoe took on himself. According to him, when it's not CGI, that's him on the infamous Goblin glider.
"I was the glider guy," says Dafoe. "It was on wires, [and] sometimes it was on a crane. Sometimes it was on a gimbal and sometimes it was fixed and sometimes it would fly. In the really big shots where it's in the landscape, that's generally CGI."
Dafoe wasn't too concerned about injury on the job. The crew worked hard to insure the safety of the ultimate Spider-villain... not that it wasn't hairy at times.
"One of the scariest things about the glider was that because of the way it moves when it's on the gimbal, you're locked into the thing with your feet. It's a good way to snap some bones in your body. It was a little scary that way."
Fortunately, the production had apparently thought ahead, scheduling the tough stuff for later in the shoot.
"They were very smart about this because I started with the Norman Osborn role," says Dafoe. "We shot a lot of the early stuff, not necessarily in sequence, but when they would shoot the school stuff or the Mary Jane and Peter stuff, I would be rehearsing, doing fight stuff with the fight guys, [or] working on developing the costume, because I had a long time to work with that before we had to actually use it on the day. I felt safe."
Dafoe also felt safe with all the wirework in the movie, even if some of it, unlike Dafoe thankfully, ended up on the floor... the cutting room floor, that is.
Metallic and mean, it's the Green Goblin!
© Sony Pictures
"With any of these effects, you shoot way more than you end up using. I liked doing that stuff because it's challenging. You always have to finesse it, no matter how good these stunt guys are, it's like a big slalom course. You're always making adjustments."
Surprisingly, Dafoe doesn't find the effects-heavy shooting at all distracting.
"It helps you, actually," says Dafoe. "For me, most often acting is a series of tasks and that is always the way you focus your concentration. I always feel most comfortable being very concrete about things to do. When you're doing the technical work, it's the same. It actually focuses you."
While some might find it odd that Dafoe does so much of his own stunt work, the actor sees it as an essential part of the character.
"As far as the stunts go, I did as much as I could," says Dafoe. "I like doing it, and also it's very important how the Goblin moves even if it's split seconds. You don't want someone doing your part for you, but there were really good stuntmen and a couple of things I just couldn't do. It was too dangerous because in some stunt work, no matter how safe you are, if it goes south on you, something really bad can happen."
While "something really bad" happens to the Goblin at the end of the movie, you can be sure he'll be back... somehow.
"In the comic, [Norman's son] Harry becomes the Green Goblin, and number two, [Norman later] returns with a big slash in his torso. Obviously, if this movie does well, there's going to be a sequel. So, when I talked to them, half joking, but half serious, I said, 'Sam, what do you think, a little flashback or something like that?' He said, 'Not in the next one - maybe if there's one after that.'"