Willem Dafoe: ‘Challenging Movies’ Don’t Do Well on Streaming Because ‘People Go Home’ and Say ‘Let’s Watch Something Stupid Tonight’

Rexa Vella

Willem Dafoe: ‘Challenging Movies’ Don’t Do Well on Streaming Because ‘People Go Home’ and Say ‘Let’s Watch Something Stupid Tonight’

Willem Dafoe recently told The Guardian that “more difficult movies, more challenging movies” usually fail to perform well on streaming platforms because most subscribers just want to go home and “watch something stupid.” That’s a problem for someone like Dafoe, whose movies are often dense and challenging such as “The Northman,” “Inside” and “Poor Things,” just to same a few of his recent offerings.

“The kind of attention that people give at home isn’t the same,” Dafoe said. “More difficult movies, more challenging movies can not do as well when you don’t have an audience that’s really paying attention. That’s a big thing. I miss the social thing of where movies fit in the world. You go see a movie, you go out to dinner, you talk about it later, and that spreads out. People now go home, they say, ‘Hey, honey, let’s watch something stupid tonight,’ and they flip through and they watch five minutes of 10 movies, and they say, ‘Forget it, let’s go to bed.’ Where’s that discourse found?”

“They aren’t making movies the same way they used to,” he continued. “They’re being financed by toy companies and other entities, and they become the vehicle to make the movies, because they know how to do that. Streaming, they’re becoming like a monopoly, they have the means of production and distribution. And so it’s very complicated.”

The four-time Oscar nominee couched his comments by noting he’s a “crummy” and “lousy” source to be dissecting the film business or “to have a really good overview on what has changed,” but he’s correct when he says that streamers like Netflix have their own production arms and thus have the power to make and distribute movies straight to an audience designed to like “something stupid” over a challenging movie. Dafoe did not call out Mattel by name, but that toy company now also has a film division (and it’s off to a blockbuster start with “Barbie”).

Dafoe was recently honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he’s earning Oscar buzz yet again for his supporting role in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things.”

“There’s a tendency, particularly when people get older, that they refine their impulses and like to work a certain way and don’t like to jump around,” Dafoe told Variety about his knack for bouncing around dramas and often taking risks in his career. “It’s like planting seeds in different places. Do you plant a monocrop, where you’re waiting for that one thing to grow? Or do you plant many different things so that when you least expect it, opportunities arise, and you always have a certain variety?”

Dafoe will be back on screen later this year with roles in Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice 2” and Robert Eggers’ “Nosferatu,” his latest collaboration with the director after “The Lighthouse” and “The Northman.”


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