William James Dafoe, known professionally as Willem Dafoe, is a highly prolific character actor with Italian citizenship. Dafoe has frequently collaborated with filmmakers Paul Schrader, Abel Ferrara, Lars von Trier, and Wes Anderson.

Dafoe played the leader of a biker gang in Walter Hill's 1984 action film Streets of Fire. His character in the film served as the main antagonist, who captures the ex-girlfriend of a mercenary, played by Michael Paré and Diane Lane, respectively. Willem Dafoe was recommended by Kathryn Bigelow, who had just made a film with him. Bigelow was dating David Giler, a collaborator and friend of Hill's at the time. Gross later said the thought Dafoe may have been the best thing about the film.

While doing a blocking run-through on Wild at Heart (1990) (for the scene in which Dafoe's character threatens to rape Laura Dern's character), Dafoe playfully sang his lines. Director David Lynch loved this, and wanted Dafoe to actually sing his lines in the scene, when they shot it. The idea did not actually go through, however.

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