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Willem Dafoe Teases ‘Nefarious’ Role in Robert Eggers’ ‘Northman’: ‘A Huge, Muscular Movie’

Dafoe's "Northman" role is much smaller compared to "The Lighthouse."

Robert Eggers and Willem Dafoe

Robert Eggers and Willem Dafoe


Willem Dafoe is reuniting with “The Lighthouse” director Robert Eggers for the upcoming Viking revenge epic “The Northman,” but the Oscar-nominated actor has a far smaller role in Eggers’ latest. During an interview with IndieWire to promote his new film, Abel Ferrara’s “Siberia” (opening June 18), Dafoe dropped some teases about what fans can expect from Eggers’ most expensive and most ambitious movie to date. “The Northman” is Eggers’ third feature directorial effort following “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse.”

“It’s a huge movie,” Dafoe said. “It’s a muscular movie. My involvement isn’t nearly as expansive as ‘The Lighthouse.’ I’m in a supporting role, but it was thrilling. The level of research and detail is there, but on a much bigger scale. During the pandemic, they continued to work and to research things to build, and somehow they did. We gave them the time to prepare for this huge jump in budget and size of production. The sets are fantastic.”

Despite the jump in budget, Dafoe said fans should expect to see the same level of historical precision and artistry that Eggers brought to his smaller indie films. The actor said, “You have the same kind of detail he gave to his smaller films. Sometimes when you have a jump in budget, directors can have a hard time and they end up delegating and lose control. I didn’t feel that. I felt like he was still driving it.”

“The Northman” is set in the 10th century and stars Alexander Skarsgård as a Viking prince who seeks revenge for his father’s murder. The cast also includes Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, and Björk. Dafoe stars in the film as Heimir the Fool, although the actor told IndieWire, “He’s a court figure, but that’s my day job. I have a surprising night job that’s a little more nefarious, let’s say.”

Next up for Dafoe later this year is the production of Yorgos Lanthimos’ new movie, “Small Things.” The ensemble cast also includes Emma Stone, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Ruffalo, and Ramy Youssef. Dafoe told IndieWire rehearsals for the movie start in September. “Poor Things” is set in Victorian-era England and is being described as a riff on the classic Frankenstein story. Stone plays a young woman named Belle Baxter who is brought back to life by an eccentric and brilliant scientist, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe).

Focus Features is releasing “The Northman” in theaters April 8, 2022.

Reporting by Eric Kohn.

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