Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe says ‘history lied’ about Vincent van Gogh

by John Sheridan

20th November 2018

The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.
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Willem Dafoe says ‘history lied’ about Vincent van Gogh


Willem Dafoe found that "history had lied" about Vincent van Gogh when he took on the role in the movie ‘At Eternity’s Gate’.

The 63-year-old actor portrays the 19th century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter in the Julian Schnabel directed flick, and like most people his understanding of Van Gogh was that he was a tortured soul who cut off part of his left ear with a razor.

However, from researching the role Dafoe discovered he was a misunderstood "hopeful character" who could be incredibly "joyous".

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper about the iconic painter, Dafoe said: "He felt like he was painting in a new way. One of the things that changed for me in making this movie was the joyous part of him that we don’t see. He’s usually depicted as the poster boy for the tortured artists, but I would definitely say he’s a hopeful character. History lies!

"Flexibility is important for an actor. Otherwise corruption sets in. You get stuck in certain patterns, and a certain kind of performing language that keeps you from a kind of sense of discovery or danger or mystery."

Despite having a screen career which has spanned four decades, the ‘Spider-Man’ star never had serious ambitions to become an actor when he started out and that helped him relate to playing the painter as like Van Gogh he is a perfectionist.

Dafoe added: "I was just a dopey kid that loved being in plays but I thought that was something that would pass, and one day I’d grow up and become an adult. It’s only after you’ve been working for a while that you say, ‘Well, I guess I’m an actor.’ It sounds suspicious, it sounds like, what, was I asleep? But somewhere deeply, I always thought I’d do something else. I like working from a place of zero and going towards something. Some people really respond to the idea of nailing it or executing it to perfection. I like perfection, I appreciate that.

"But I’m much better trying to find something than I am knowing something and executing and explaining it. I think it’s the difference between a craftsman and an artist. I aspire to be an artist."

‘At Eternity’s Gate’ has a stellar cast which also includes Rupert Friend, Mads Mikkelsen, Emmanuelle Seigner and Oscar Isaac among others.

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