Willem Dafoe has played some terrifying characters over the years, but his latest gig in Netflix’s adaptation of “Death Note” puts a twist on the villain archetype.
Based on the fan-favorite manga and anime series, the upcoming live-action film stars the Oscar-nominated actor as Ryuk, a shinigami (death god) who starts causing a bit of chaos on Earth. The prickly demon gives a high school kid named Light (Nat Wolff) a magical book that can pretty much kill anyone, as long as their name and manner of death is written down.
Although Ryuk isn’t on the side of the angels, he also isn’t your typical bad guy. The cackling spirit would rather watch all the chaos from the sidelines than get involved in any evil antics himself.
“Ryuk’s cool because he’s dealing with this boredom,” Dafoe tells Metro. “Ryuk gives Light the tools, he sets him up to play a game and he’s like the spectator.”
Diehard “Death Note” fans may not want to hear this, but the 62-year-old star didn’t binge watch the original series or do much prep work for his ghoulish character. However, that doesn’t mean he lacks respect for the world of Japanese cartoons and comic books.
“The second I saw what he looked like, somehow, it triggered something in my imagination. I just wanted to get in a room and play around with it,” Dafoe says. “[Anime is] a world I don’t know so much, but there’s something classical about it… It has great flexibility. It’s a good form.”
As for whether a certain leader of the free world shares any traits with the nefarious Ryuk, Dafoe would rather not say whether Donald Trump is a shinigami or not, as he prefers to keep his political views out of the public eye.
“I’ll let you say that,” Dafoe says with a laugh. “I have my private opinions, and some people are very good at using their celebrity or public position to express themselves, but I become too self-conscious.”
However, he did add, “No, I am not a great fan of his. That goes without saying.”
Looking ahead, “Death Note” is just one of seven projects featuring Dafoe that’s hitting theaters and screens in 2017. After playing the villainous Green Goblin in the original “Spider-Man” trilogy, he’s also set to return to the world of superheroes in the upcoming “Justice League” and “Aquaman” films.
And even though he already has more than 100 acting credits on his résumé, don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.
“I like adventure. Doing a lot of different kinds of movies always makes things feel like the first time,” Dafoe says. “You don’t get bored. I think I was probably bored when I was younger, but I’m not bored now.”
“Death Notes” debuts on Netflix Aug. 25.