Signing on to comedy Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate was a breeze for Willem Dafoe. Friends with administrator Julian Schnabel for 30 years, Dafoe ample that “the abstraction of a abundant painter and a abundant filmmaker authoritative a blur about a painter fabricated sense,” he said. “I capital to be his van Gogh. What can I say?”
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Dafoe, 63, who won Venice’s best amateur award-winning aback the blur premiered there in September, portrays the iconic painter during his time in Arles, France, aback he corrective some of his greatest works but additionally suffered from brainy affliction and cut off allotment of his ear.
Dafoe, who will be accustomed at the Gotham Awards with the actor’s tribute, batten to THR about personalizing van Gogh, which paintings he kept from the set (and which one he wants back) and what he thinks of awards season.
When advancing to comedy van Gogh, what analysis did you do?
I apprehend biographies, of course. I had apparent Lust for Activity and the [Robert] Altman blur [Vincent & Theo] years ago. But aback you accomplish something, you absolutely appetite to balloon those things. You can’t archetype them. It’s the abstraction that to accurate what a assignment of art is you accept to accomplish addition thing. There are parallels to what you apprentice in painting: It’s not about likeness.
The blur appearance replicas of abounding of van Gogh’s paintings. How did that appear about?
We had a branch of bodies authoritative copies of van Goghs. I’d adhere out there and they’d assignment with me to get me painting and advise me things, how to draw. Aback we’d appear to set in the morning, sometimes Julian would see a painting that was a acceptable archetype of van Gogh. But he’d say, “Get my paints,” and he’d assignment on them some more. He’d personalize them. He’d accomplish some of the acclaimed self-portraits attending added like me. You ability think, “Oh that’s a betrayal of van Gogh,” but the best way you can account him is in spirit. What you appetite is a active painting, not a building piece.
I kept some, I fabricated some of the paintings in the film. I fabricated Shoes in absolute time, which was challenging. I don’t apperceive who has that painting; I’d like to accept it. There are a brace portraits that Julian made, and I did some assignment on, that he gave me. He additionally gave me some of my aboriginal landscapes, the aboriginal ones that I tried. So I do accept some of them. What I’ll do with them I don’t know.
I’d accept why you’d booty the portraits of yourself.
Well, he gave them to me. I don’t acquiesce portraits of myself in my house. It’s that affair about actuality an actor: I don’t approve.
How accessible was it to shoot on-location in France?
Fantastic. You go in some of those landscapes and they’re unchanged. You can absolutely see what he saw, and that brings you absolute abutting in your acuteness to who he is because you’re actually demography the aforementioned point of view. In real, absolute means you’re seeing the aforementioned light, the aforementioned contours, the aforementioned colors that he was seeing. It gives you a added claimed relationship. This could not be attempt anyplace else.
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Did annihilation you abstruse about him abruptness you?
How steeped he was in a airy quest, which is usually short-handed as a affectionate of madness. He approved to be a man of God aboriginal in his life, so that was hasty to what admeasurement he was consistently accepting a chat with his God through nature. For addition that was so socially awkward and had so abundant agitation communicating with bodies on a amusing akin and abundantly had agitation with women, had agitation with physicality, intimacy, he was a absolute compassionate person. He acquainted ambit from people, but he admired the body of the worker. He talks abundant about how you accept to alive like a barbarian to acrylic peasants.
Right, that’s a lot of his beforehand paintings.
He articular with account and he articular with a affectionate of applied appliance of abstraction against service. He had a acidity that isn’t generally article that we accessory with him. I anticipate one of the pleasures of alive on this was, so abundant of what happens in the cine is there is an arete there. He is in the groove. He talks about not cerebration aback he paints, like it’s a meditation. He is in advice with something. He sees article that makes him feel of account and he wants to allotment that. That affectionate of generosity, that affectionate of charge for affiliation is article that I didn’t commonly accessory with him afore we formed on this.
We were alive with a absolute able script. Often, we’d accomplishment alive aboriginal in the day. We’d still accept light, so we’d go out in attributes and acrylic or walk. Going out into attributes was authentic improvisation. I acquainted best in acquaintance with him aback we got to nature. Sometimes Julian would accelerate Benoît Delhomme, the DP, out with me and we’d aloof shoot stuff. It was a absolute acceptable way to work.
What do you achievement van Gogh would anticipate of the movie?
I can’t alike anticipate about that. Who knows? We would like to anticipate that he’d adore it. (Laughs.) That’s article I would accept to brainstorm on for a continued time. But, it’s a movie. We’re authoritative it for now. We’re authoritative it for us. Van Gogh is a absolute important, affecting amount to Julian. The blur does a account to him in the account that it doesn’t try to explain him. It’s our apperception of what it ability be like to be him.
You’re no drifter to the awards race. What do you like and animosity about that experience?
What I adore is the achievability that a personal, admirable blur like this, that on the apparent doesn’t assume like it ability accept the achievability to ability a advanced audience, could. With assertive films now, administration is consistently the problem. Article tells me that bodies will be absorbed in this cine and if it gets analytical or awards attention, that helps drag its profile. I don’t like to anticipate about the adamantine allotment because again it will get me down.
You additionally anecdotal Vox Lux this year. How did that appear about?
To be honest, and this is by no way an apology, it was a absolute last-minute thing. I anticipate [director] Brady [Corbet] had addition articulation in there and he wasn’t absolutely blessed with it, and at the aftermost minute he had the abstraction to use me to be the narrator — which in agreement of absolute assignment isn’t a huge time commitment. It’s an important tonal aspect and framing accessory in the film. It’s a affectionate of agent with the audience.
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A adaptation of this adventure aboriginal appeared in the Nov. 19 affair of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To accept the magazine, bang actuality to subscribe.
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