Friday evening I had the pleasure of "meeting" one of the great actors, Willem Dafoe. In honor of its fifth year of presentation, the Milwaukee International Film Festival showcased several of Dafoe's movies, and this included a meet-and-greet between shows at the InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel on Kilbourn.
Dafoe has an early history in Wisconsin. He was born in Appleton and studied drama at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He also wokred with the then-newly formed avant-garde theater group, Theatre X.
I said "meeting," but the word is, perhaps, a bit of an overstatement, as is even the word "encounter," since any pedestrian getting close to a Hollywood star, even in a scheduled meet-and-greet session, just essentially watches them talk and smile. No personal connection ever comes close to being created.
When Dafoe arrived it was with little fanfare, and most people didn't realize he had stepped into the room until he was handed a microphone to give a small greeting. Dafoe was "happy" to be back in The Midwest, and was "happy" to be a part of the "Milwaukee International Film Festival" even though he "(didn't) know much about it." The crowd immediately began to line up.
After his speech, an old acquaintance from Theatre X presented him with a bruised and weathered tackle box full of knickknacks and objects from his days in the Midwest.
The event got underway when he sat down, switching between periods of talking with friends and producers and then talking with fans that appeared to be selected based on paraphernalia. Dafoe signed a framed black and white head shot, a couple of DVD cases, and a "Shadow of the Vampire" poster for a man whose fanboy-ish sarcasm rivaled that of "The Simpsons" Comic Book Guy.
I had the pleasure of standing quite close to the man and encountered my first uncomfortable feelings of paparazzidom. Between jockeying for prime camera position with other photographers (if I may liberally take that title for the moment) and noticing that, quite obviously, Dafoe was going out of his way NOT to look at me, I was feeling like quite the pain in the neck.
Even further, the only films of Dafoe that I've actually seen are among his worst, "Spider-Man" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." I haven't seen "The Last Temptation of Christ." I haven't seen "Platoon." I haven't seen "Shadow of the Vampire," and, much to every hipster's dismay, I haven't even seen "Boondock Saints." So, toward the end of the event I was beginning to wonder why I had hundreds of pictures of this man.
He seemed like a relatively nice fellow, but not overly eager to please the people who had come to see him. He spent a lot of time chatting with only a few people and the frustration and boredom of the rest of the audience began to show. But after the properly allotted amount of time (and not a second later) he was whisked away.
To view images of the man who is simultaneously the ultimate good (Jesus) and evil (Green Goblin), check out our In Click Pix!
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.