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Willem Dafoe And John Carter

March 7, 2012 by staff 

Willem Dafoe And John Carter, You cannot prepare for it. Your expectations may never match the reality. Willem Dafoe has played vampires, monsters, goblins (of the green variety), pervs, psychotherapists, bikers and counterfeiters running wild in Ronald Reagan’s America, and even that kinda conflicted Christ guy. Now, in a very big movie about that other J.C. — John Carter — he plays Tars Tarkas, a towering green six-limbed martian. But here’s the thing about Mr. Dafoe: He’s… he’s…

He’s nice.

I sat down with the man called Willem, and began by reading to him a brief passage from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, upon which Disney’s John Carter is based:

I saw Tars Tarkas rise to speak, and on his face was such an expression as I had never seen upon the countenance of a green Martian warrior. It bespoke an inward and mighty battle with self, with heredity, with age-old custom, and as he opened his mouth to speak, a look almost of benignity, of kindliness, momentarily lighted up his fierce and terrible countenance.

“Excellent,” replies Mr. Dafoe, opening his eyes anew. “That says a lot.”

I ask how that description of the Martian “Thark” and eventual “Jeddak” (first published a hundred years ago, in 1912) compares to Mr. Dafoe’s experience of playing the character in a very high-tech, alien, yet remarkably human interpretation.

“Well, I hope there’s some of that in the movie. It’s really good. One of the beautiful things about Tars Tarkas is that conflict: he’s kind of damned either way. Because here he is, this leader, but he has this inner feeling that he’s leading the people in the wrong direction. And he’s supporting a culture that’s declining. But if he expresses his concerns, or he tries to assert some of these inner feelings, he probably won’t be around much longer!” He laughs. “He sounds like a politician!”

Does Mr. Dafoe have ananlogue in his own experience? “Nothing directly. Often, when you’re conflicted about something, one of the problems is, how much do you ride it out to survive, to change it later? Or how much is that a certain kind of corruption that you don’t wanna buy into, so you make a stand and you don’t worry about the consequences? You do what you think is right. This is a recurring theme, I think, for us all.”

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