Willem Dafoe is not among Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Chastain, and the league of Very Online celebrities. But he’s aware enough of what goes on online. Which is why he was dubious when first approached to appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The Green Goblin actor and fellow on-screen Spider-Man villains Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx recently chatted with The New York Times about bringing their characters from previous film iterations into the MCU. (We first came across this at IGN.)
Dafoe, he says, didn’t want to reprise his role as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in a short cameo. Specifically “a series of memes.” Which is a pretty fair concern considering MCU films are famous for their tag scenes and quick cameos.
“When Amy Pascal and Jon Watts called me up and said we’d like to pitch you this idea, I thought, this is crazy. But let’s see what they have to say,” he told the Times. “I really didn’t want to do a cameo. I wanted to make sure there was something substantial enough to do that wasn’t just a tip of the hat. And the other thing was, I said I really want there to be action—I want to take part in action scenes. Because that’s really fun for me. It’s the only way to root the character. Otherwise it just becomes a series of memes.”
Willem Dafoe is no stranger to memes. Specifically, his Norman Osborn from 2002’s Spider-Man is now a much-loved meme. But still, there is a difference between a single moment in a much larger arc becoming a meme and a one-liner that feels specifically designed for internet circulation.
Similarly, The Lighthouse actor is aware that his original Green Goblin mask isn’t exactly beloved. In No Way Home, the mask is quickly discarded. By the baddie himself, no less. While he didn’t think it affected him much, the actor admitted that the mask criticism was enough of a thing that it likely played into the new direction for his return.
“I must be honest, I am aware that there was some criticism of that [Green Goblin] mask in the original one,” Dafoe shared. “We heard it enough that it was probably a consideration, to change it up a little bit. I don’t think about that because I don’t think about emoting with my face. My face follows my heart. It’s just an expression of what you’re feeling.”
Well, given how successful No Way Home is, we can say that it worked out for the best. Dafoe’s return to the Green Goblin in No Way Home was extremely good. A performance worthy of a top tier villain.