Willem Dafoe, now a three-time Oscar nominee, has a new outlook on awards season. The process, he says, has become “much more developed,” “much more sophisticated,” and “much more aware” since he was nominated for 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire and 1987’s Platoon. As he explains to EW over the phone, “There’s more outlets, there’s more award shows. It’s just much more complicated.”
Dafoe, who received an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor for The Florida Project on Tuesday morning, seems more excited for the awareness he can bring to the indie film that could as opposed to his own recognition. “I don’t know what to say except for this movie is a movie I’m very proud of,” he says. “And it’s a movie [that] resonates with people, and they responded to my performance.”
It’s also a movie Dafoe called “a challenge” to promote as indie releases fought to be seen by more audiences.
Sean Baker, coming off of the awards-buzzing Tangerine, directed and co-wrote The Florida Project about misfit Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her summer bounding about a motel just outside the idyllic Disney World. “We have a very good distributor, it’s a smaller film that came out in October, and it was important to keep the awareness of it so people would get to see because when they do see it they really respond to it,” Dafoe says. “So it was really, more than anything, a mission for the film — a film that I like very much.”
Though he’s the only member of The Florida Project to receive an Oscar nomination this year, Dafoe will keep reminding you that this isn’t his film. “I was a little disappointed he didn’t get some love ‘cause this is very much his movie and he made a beautiful movie,” Dafoe says of Baker. “I was hoping either the film or him or one of the other performers would get recognized but it didn’t happen.”
He also thought of Prince, the film’s now-7-year-old star, when the nominations rolled out. “She’s really great in the movie,” he remarks. “I think Brooklynn is going to have a long, strong career as much as you can say for someone that’s 7 years old. But she’s [an] uncommonly intelligent and talented 7-year-old and I really liked working with her. I’m sure she would’ve liked to have been nominated but, let’s face it, the Best Actress is a very tough category.”
But all of that is out of his control, Dafoe acknowledges. To that end, he’s happy to let the awards season cards fall where they may.
“I’ve done my bid and I can do my promotion and that sort of thing,” he says, “but in the end it’s something where I just have to sit back and let people respond.”