Willem Dafoe - Interview
Every mountain tells a story. And every silence and every breath you take in the mountains tells something about the mountain’s soul and matter. Willem Dafoe loves this mistery, this magical world. He is one of the most talented actors of contemporary cinema. Since 1979, he has collaborated with directors who represent the encyclopedia of modern cinema: Kathryn Bigelow, Wim Wenders, Anton Corbijn, Zhang Yimou, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, Oliver Stone, William Friedkin, Werner Herzog, Lars Von Trier, Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader. Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dafoe has racked up credits on more than 100 films. Now is returning as main character for the Abel Ferrara’s new film “Siberia” (after the roles of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Tommaso), which is set to celebrate its world premiere at Berlinale competition 2020. The film tells the story of Clint, a damaged man who has retreated to a wintry remote mountain cabin where he hopes to find serenity. But even isolation he cannot find peace. One day, he begins a journey by dogsled to the world he once knew. He travels through dreams, memories and visions to find his true nature.
Willem Dafoe, how would you describe your personal relationship with wilderness, nature and mountains?
«In summers when I was a child I would go with my father and brothers to Northern Canadian to fish. That was my first serious travel. Those trips to those wilderness lakes represented freedom and adventure. There were no substantial mountains where I grew up in Wisconsin, USA so my relationship to mountains came later in life. Recently I have shot two films in the mountains, one in the Dolomites and one in the Canadian Rockies».
What does it mean for you the kind of silence that you can find in a peaceful place like the mountain?
«It’s the enormity of mountains and their silence that distinguishes them from forests that I grew up with. That silence makes them more elemental and timeless. That is what stirs my soul».
Can you tell us about Clint’s character in your last movie “Siberia”?
«Clint has retreated to the mountains to run a small remote outpost bar in an attempt to find solitude and escape society. But his isolation makes him feel even more restless and un-whole so he leaves his cabin and goes on a journey by dogsled to find peace».
Several years ago I read in a magazine, “The Travel Almanac”, about your passion for travel. Which are your secret and favorite places in the mountains?
«No secrets really. But I like to travel with work. Otherwise I fall into all the traps of collecting experience as a tourist. When I work in a new film location- my experiences are not as an outsider but as a person who is trying to integrate into the environment I have been sent to. It’s like the nature of creating something. It’s interacting, submitting and being defined by where you are rather than bending experience to what you want to take away with you. I like how travel challenges your habits and patterns and gives you the opportunity to learn new ways to live and transforms your thinking»
In “Mountain” you narrates the film and reads passages from Robert Macfarlane’s book “Mountains of the Mind”. I think it’s a wonderful movie. Your voice is so inspired and connected to the spirit of mountains. You said: “our need for mountains runs deep and wide, mountains are wild and ungovernable, this is the source of their danger and the source of their allure”. How did you immerse yourself in Mcfarlane’s book?
«It was Jennifer Peedom the director of the film MOUNTAIN who introduced me to Macfarlane’s words and I found them very beautiful. She had spent much of her life in the mountain climbing world and it was through her, the book and the dramatic photography of the film that that my appreciation deepened. My love affair with mountain landscapes is just beginning».
Written by Guido Andruetto