Willem Dafoe Talks about Working with Lars von Trier


Indiewire.com has released an article looking at Willem Dafoe and his recent work in The Grand Budapest Hotel, and a little bit on working with the Dane Lars von Trier. Here’s the relevant section:

How you would compare working with someone like Wes Anderson, with someone like Lars von Trier.

There are similarities, but there are probably more differences. You know, their interests, they have a different kind of cinema, but they both have very clear visions, their ways of working are very different. Wes likes to shoot a lot, he’s very obsessive, and he works things out ahead of time. Lars prohibits rehearsal, because he wants the actor off-balance and he wants the actor to be fresh, he doesn’t want them to be able to deliver a performance, he wants the performance to happen. I mean that’s my interpretation of it, but he really doesn’t want them to rehearse. Also, the camera is more fluid, some shots are very designed but they’re huge signs.

In the sequences in Lars’ work where the camera moves, you don’t even know where it is, and he really believes you can cut anything to anything so he doesn’t shoot conventionally. Wes doesn’t shoot conventionally but he does shoot in a very formal way. He really knows the frame, while he may have these wildly athletic camera shots, it’s quite built. He plays very little with chance.

I saw the first volume of “Nymphomaniac” — dying to see the second.

I haven’t seen it yet

You haven’t seen it yet? You must be curious.

Very curious. But the truth is, I haven’t been anywhere, I’ve been traveling a lot and working a lot, and I haven’t been any place where it’s playing, and they sent me a link, and I was like, when do I have four hours to watch this? And I waited and waited and then I get very excited, and I get ready to do it, and so I went to see it, and it expired!


So I thought, I gotta wait.

That’s a film you need to see on the big screen. I would wait it out.

I imagine, I imagine.

Were you at all wary about collaborating with Lars again following his whole Cannes blowout?

No, no. I mean you know, I think he doesn’t protect himself, and he says irresponsible things, but I think he is… you know, he’s a risk taker. Sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth, sometimes he says things that probably aren’t wise to say, but he’s thinking them. Everyone assumes he plans everything out very carefully and he’s just a bad boy seeking publicity. I don’t think it’s quite like that. He’s a guy who challenges himself and he challenges people’s reactions to him, and how his films get made and how they get released, he’s always playing around with different formulas. And he goes to Cannes quite often, and he’s always set up as the bad boy and he always plays his part, and this time, he went just a little too far and it was funny to see how they came down on him. And then of course the press ran with it, but if you look, I mean it’s old news, but, if you look at the sequence, classically, out of context, some of it’s very outrageous, but if you see the tone, and how he’s doing it, you say, OK, I wouldn’t have said that, and it’s probable ill-advised to say that he did, but I get it, he’s not a Nazi, he’s not promoting, you know. But this is why he gets spanked. I’ve seen worse press conferences (laughs). And better reasons to ban people.

Read the whole article here.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.