William J. “Willem” Dafoe (born July 22, 1955) is an American actor and model. A member of the experimental theater company The Wooster Group, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Platoon (1986) and Shadow of the Vampire (2000). His other film appearances include The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The English Patient (1996) and the Spider-Man trilogy (2002–07). He has also had voice-roles in Finding Nemo (2003) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), as well as two episodes of The Simpsons.
Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin. One of seven children of Muriel Isabel (née Sprissler) and Dr. William Alfred Dafoe, he recalled in 2009: “My five sisters raised me because my father was a surgeon, my mother was a nurse and they worked together, so I didn’t see either of them much.” In high school, he acquired the nickname Willem. His father’s ancestry is French-Canadian, Swiss, and English, and his mother’s ancestry is German, Irish, and Scottish.
He was once expelled from high school for shooting a pornographic film.
Dafoe studied drama at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, but left after a year and a half to join the experimental theater company Theatre X in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before moving to New York City in 1976. There he apprenticed under Richard Schechner, director of the avant-garde theater troupe The Performance Group, where he met and became romantically involved with Elizabeth LeCompte, 11 years his senior. She, with her former romantic partner Spalding Gray and others, edged out Schechner and created the Wooster Group. Within a year Dafoe was part of the company.
Dafoe met director Elizabeth LeCompte at The Performance Group, and the two began a professional and personal relationship there and at its successor company, the Wooster Group. Their son, Jack, was born in 1982.
Dafoe married Italian actress, director, and screenwriter Giada Colagrande on March 25, 2005, a year after the two had met in Rome at the premiere of one of her films. Dafoe said in 2010, “We were having lunch and I said: ‘Do you want to get married tomorrow?'” They did so the following afternoon at a small ceremony with two friends as witnesses. The two worked together on the film Before It Had a Name. The couple divide their time between Rome, New York City, and Los Angeles. He now holds both Italian and American citizenship.
Dafoe said in 2008 that he is no longer a vegetarian. His brother, Donald Dafoe, is a transplant surgeon and researcher.