‘Spider-Man’ Star Willem Dafoe Reflects on “Fun” Green Goblin Role

Willem Dafoe says his time on Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man as Norman Osborn-slash-Green Goblin “was fun.”

“Sam Raimi did a miracle thing. He made kind of a personal film out of a fairly big-sized, partly effect movie. It was early in the game of movies from comic books, that sort of thing, so there was no template,” Dafoe told GQ.

“I loved in Spider-Man particularly playing the double role. Everybody thinks about the Green Goblin, and that was fun, but the more interesting role was probably the father, Norman Osborn. Because you could play these scenes where it would switch from comedy to drama in a line.”

Dafoe cited a Thanksgiving dinner scene that sees Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) scold Osborn for sampling food before saying grace, eliciting a menacing reaction from Osborn.

“There’s a couple of scenes that still make me laugh, because they’re so double-edged, and they go back and forth between being really heavy and really kind of silly. And the movie is filled with that,” Dafoe said.

Dafoe reflected fondly on a moment that captures the psychotic Osborn talking to himself in a mirror, bouncing between his personalities as Norman and the Green Goblin.

“Sam Raimi gave me [Strange Case of] Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to read before I did that,” Dafoe said with a laugh.

“But it was fun, and we basically did it in one take. I think, in the final thing, for whatever reason, they cut it. But we always shot it in one take, and it became a beautiful game, because I had to switch those things, and also for the camera to be in the mirror the correct way, and I had to dance with the camera a lot on that scene.”

For Dafoe, who has since appeared again in superhero fare as Nuidis Vulko in DC’s Aquaman, his time as the Green Goblin allowed him a kind of unprecedented fun when gleefully menacing the wall-crawling Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire).

“There were a lot of mechanical effects in that because I think some of the visual effects weren’t so sophisticated then, and they were really fun to do,” Dafoe said.

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“To be on a wire, to fly around, that’s fun. It’s athletic and it’s challenging, and yeah, cops and robbers, it’s fun.”

Dafoe is nominated at the 2019 Academy Awards for Best Actor for his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in biography drama At Eternity’s Gate.