Willem Dafoe Let Emma Stone Slap Him 20 Times for a Scene He Doesn’t Appear in

“There’s this instinct to perform that many actors have — the ‘look at me, look at me!’ kind of performer,” Emma Stone said. “He’s the opposite of that.”
Willem Dafoe and Emma Stone
Willem Dafoe and Emma Stone
Getty Images

Five years after the success of “The Favourite,” Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos are re-teaming in a big way. After a multi-year hiatus from releasing new films — Yorgos hasn’t directed a feature since “The Favourite,” and Stone hasn’t appeared in a movie since 2021’s “Cruella” — the two collaborators are currently in post-production on two new projects. First up is “Poor Things,” a Frankenstein-inspired story that stars Stone as a woman brought back from the dead when her brain is replaced with that of her unborn child. That will be followed by “AND,” a mysterious new Lanthimos film starring Stone, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley, and Hong Chau.

Little is known about the plot of “AND,” but a new profile on Dafoe in The New York Times revealed an interesting detail about the production: Dafoe let Stone slap him 20 times for a shot in which he did not even appear. The actor was not even called to set that day but showed up to help his co-stars get into character by interacting with them out of frame. When that required him to be slapped, he was apparently game to let Stone do it as many times as she needed to.

Stone praised Dafoe’s willingness to prioritize the film over everything else — including his own personal safety.

“There’s this instinct to perform that many actors have — the ‘look at me, look at me!’ kind of performer,” Stone said. “He’s the opposite of that.”

Stone speculated that Dafoe’s generosity as a performer may be the result of age, as years of stardom often causes actors to set their egos aside and rededicate themselves to their craft.

“Maybe it’s changed through the years,” Stone continued. “A lot of actors I bond with have been doing this for a long time, and you know they’ve gone from ‘I’ to ‘We.’”

Lanthimos also weighed in on the scene, saying that Dafoe’s commitment to the role is exactly what he looks for in the actors he chooses to work with.

“That’s what you want from actors,” Lanthimos said. “To want to be part of it in any way.”

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