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SmartLess / – “Willem Dafoe”

SmartLess – “Willem Dafoe”

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In this episode of SmartLess, the hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett are joined by the talented actor Willem Dafoe. They discuss everything from Willem’s career in theater and film to his experiences living in different countries. They also touch on topics such as the challenges of acting, the importance of authenticity, and the joys of owning a farm. Get ready for an insightful and entertaining conversation with one of Hollywood’s most respected actors.

Main Takeaways

Willem Dafoe’s Career in Theater and Film

  • Willem Dafoe has a background in theater and started his career with a small theater group called Theater X in Milwaukee.
  • He found himself drawn to unconventional theater and toured internationally with Theater X Data.
  • His experiences in unconventional theater shaped his taste and interests as an actor.
  • Willem Dafoe has been in 147 feature films and has been nominated for multiple awards.

The Challenges of Acting

  • Actors often have to take big swings and trust in their abilities to deliver complex characters.
  • They focus on doing actions like athletes, which helps them concentrate and learn.
  • The best actors work with what’s there, not thinking about the audience or sending messages.
  • Every performance is different, and actors need to be in the moment and fall in with the world.

Living in Different Countries

  • Willem Dafoe has lived in Italy, New York, and Los Angeles.
  • Living in different countries can be a transformative experience and opens up new perspectives.
  • Learning a new language can be humbling and helps you see beyond ego pressures.
  • Willem Dafoe feels like an immigrant in Italy but loves the country and has made it his home.

Authenticity and Honesty

  • Willem Dafoe is on a journey of authenticity and honesty about who he is as a person.
  • Being an actor, who often pretends to be someone else, can sometimes conflict with this personal journey.
  • The importance of being honest and authentic in both personal and professional relationships is discussed.
  • Willem Dafoe believes that performing in the best situations makes you more alive than in real life sometimes.

Owning a Farm and Connecting with Nature

  • Willem Dafoe owns a farm in Italy where he grows his own food and takes care of animals.
  • Having animals on the farm connects him to nature and reminds him of things beyond this life.
  • He sees taking care of the animals as a responsibility and worries about their safety.
  • Owning a farm provides Willem Dafoe with daily disciplines and a sense of fulfillment.


Willem Dafoe: From Theater to Film and Living Abroad

Willem Dafoe’s journey as an actor started in unconventional theater, which shaped his taste and interests. He has been in 147 feature films and has been recognized with multiple awards. In the podcast, he shares insights into the challenges of acting and the importance of being in the moment. Living in different countries, such as Italy, has been a transformative experience for him, allowing him to embrace new perspectives. Willem Dafoe also discusses the importance of authenticity and honesty, both in his personal life and as an actor. Owning a farm in Italy provides him with daily disciplines and a connection to nature.

The Joy of Acting and Connecting with Audiences

Acting for Willem Dafoe is about taking big swings and trusting in his abilities. He focuses on doing actions like an athlete, which helps him concentrate and learn. The best actors work with what’s there, without thinking about the audience or sending messages. Every performance is unique, and being in the moment is crucial. Willem Dafoe also shares his experiences of watching his own films and the memories they evoke from being on set. He values the collaborative nature of film and television and believes they reflect shared experiences rather than providing explanations.


Join the hosts of SmartLess as they engage in a fascinating conversation with Willem Dafoe, exploring his career in theater and film, his experiences living in different countries, and the joys and challenges of being an actor. From discussing the importance of authenticity and honesty to the transformative power of living abroad, this episode offers valuable insights into the life and mindset of one of Hollywood’s most respected actors.

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