In cinemas: “Poor Creatures.”  Willem Dafoe: In Lanthimos' films, the actors are like a happy family

On the occasion of the cinematic premiere of Poor Creatures, we would like to remind you of an interview conducted in November last year. During the 31st Energa Camerimage Festival in Toruń, whose guest was Willem Dafoe.

In his new film based on Alasdair Grey's novel, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos takes viewers back to the Victorian era. The genius scientist, Dr. Goodwin Baxter, performs a unique operation – he brings the body of a suicide victim back to life by transplanting a child's brain into it, and then monitors its development. Unaware of social mores, and untainted by prejudice, the dazzlingly beautiful Bella eagerly explores the domestic environment in which Godwin seems like God. Learns to speak and perform increasingly complex activities. Eventually, the girl enters adolescence, discovers her sexuality and begins to dream of a life full of adventures. She embarks with lawyer Duncan Wedderburn on a journey across Europe, her path to freedom and mature independence from men.

In “Poor Things” she plays Dr. Goodwin Baxter, an eccentric scientist who has suffered from past trauma. His face was disfigured as a result of a surgical experiment that led to his isolation from life. Only Bella had awakened his parental instincts. Was it difficult for you to get into this character's thoughts?

Not much, because the world created by Yorgos was very complete, and the story and relationships between the characters were engaging. Plus, the mask I wore – both physical and metaphorical – was truly liberating. I was interested in the literary form of the film and many other things. If you love something, you can't think about difficulties.

You have over a hundred roles under your belt, including: in David Lynch's “Wild at Heart,” Oliver Stone's “Platoon,” Abel Ferrara's “Siberia,” and John Watts' “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” He was never afraid of radical transformations, expression in front of the camera, or distortion while performing a role. How important is an actor's visual transformation?

It's almost everything. Acting is about putting yourself in different situations and acting. When you devote yourself fully to it and release your emotions, the psychology of the characters creates itself, just like the entire story. It is often said that actors have to make choices. Yes, but to some extent it is self-evident, it results from action. You point to something, you do it, you don't show it, you don't escape tautology. I've always thought that's the key, because if you show that, you're very self-conscious, out of character. This isn't the same as completely losing yourself in the character. You start imagining what it would be like to be someone else, which is exciting every time. It doesn't mean I don't love myself or feel the need to escape who I am. The point is that you learn many things that help you understand life better.

Apparently, in preparation for your role in this film, you and Ramy Youssef, who plays Dr. Baxter's assistant, attended classes for anatomy lab technicians.

I wouldn't say it was a school for morgue workers. However, we actually trained under someone who performs autopsies. She was a very interesting woman, and a lovely teacher. We both really loved it. She showed us how to perform basic activities, such as sewing, cutting, etc. And it was learning by doing, because we do some of these things on film and we needed an authority in the field, someone to coach us effectively. We enjoyed learning. We did not do this extensively, but we took these issues seriously. We took pieces of meat and learned how to make cuts and how to take out certain things.

Have you discovered a natural talent for it?

Funny enough, I felt like I had come home. My father was a surgeon, as was one of my brothers. All my sisters are nurses. All my life I have been associated with surgery and medicine in some way.

Did trust and understanding develop quickly between you and Emma Stone, who played Bella?

Yes. The filming period was preceded by preparations, during which we did not work much behind the scenes, but rather focused on rehearsals as in theatre. Thanks to these tasks, we felt more comfortable in each other's company. Yorgos performs such exercises very well. It creates a good atmosphere between the actors, where they love each other, start trusting each other, and become a happy family. Moreover, I really like the way the relationship between these two characters is written in the screenplay.

And Emma is truly amazing, hardworking, smart, incredibly talented, and beautiful. I love working with her. My appreciation for her is in direct proportion to the love that Dr. Goodwin Baxter has for her. These are two parallel issues. If I didn't like Emma, ​​I might have to put a lot more effort into the game, but I love her. It's a bit boring when actors talk about how much they like the people they work with, but in this case it's worth noting. Emma is special. We are making another film with her and Yorgos Lanthimos. I also really appreciated being in his company. When I am asked to do something, I immediately feel motivated to do it. He has a great approach to film making.


Last September “Poor Creatures” won the Golden Lion in Venice. In January, the film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

Source: nielezna.pl, PAP,

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