Actor Willem Dafoe revealed that he thinks Spider-Man: No Way Home was changed to respond to criticism of his costume. Specifically, the acclaimed thespian believes the helmet he wore to portray The Green Goblin was removed. And it is true, the metallic helmet Dafoe wore in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film in 2002 has been controversial. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Dafoe acknowledged that many fans did not like the look of the helmet. But, being the pro he is, he felt that performing without it gave him the ability to emote that he had not had in character previously.
In the comics, The Green Goblin traditionally wears a nearly flesh-like mask. Although it has exaggerated goblin features like pointed ears and bulbous eyes, it still could be perceived as a face. However, printed comic books and film are different mediums. What could suspend disbelief in the former often looks goofy or unbelievable in the latter. In the transition from one to the other, director Sam Raimi decided that his version of The Green Goblin would be wearing essentially battle armor.
However, that was almost not the case. As you can see in this screen test from the 2002 film, the idea of Dafoe wearing a more true to comic mask was explored. And while The Green Goblin is indeed supposed to be terrifying, it probably would have been a different kind of gross on screen. In either case, Spider-Man: No Way Home made the wise decision to give The Green Goblin the most frightening mask of all: Willem Dafoe’s face.
That’s no knock on Willem Dafoe. In his long career, the actor has portrayed The Green Goblin, Jesus Christ, John Wick’s buddy, Steve Zissou’s right hand man and that wildly melodramatic cop from Boondock Saints. His return to Norman Osborne aka The Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home has quickly become one of his most acclaimed. Suspicions that he (and other villains from throughout Spider-Man’s cinematic history) would reprise their roles were widespread before the film’s release. And between the monstrous box office performance and Academy Award ambitions of the movie, it is no surprise that this would be one of Dafoe’s best roles in years.
As it is, Spider-Man: No Way Home grossed an absurd 12% of all domestic box office for 2021. The return of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield to their roles as Spider-Men was one of the most talked about aspects of the film. But truly, it is Willem Dafoe who is central to the stakes of the film. As the original Spider-Man villain and the darkest, most violent among them, the movie primarily succeeds based on Dafoe. Given that he only agreed to come back to the role as long as he wasn’t just going to be a cameo or to generate memes, Marvel Studios made the right decision. This will most likely be Dafoe’s last turn as The Green Goblin, and we should just be lucky we got to see so much of him in it. And not just the helmet.