When it comes to anything Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe is a natural at dodging Web Balls like a Goblin on a glider. This time, he’s diving to avoid the Hollywood equivalent: probing media questions about otherwise clandestine projects. Samson Amore of The Wrap caught up with The French Dispatch star on Thursday about his first video game role since voicing Nathan Dawkins eight years ago in Beyond: Two Souls and casually segued into a conversation about No Way Home. Is he reprising the part of Norman Osborn for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or is it all paparazzo hogwash? Forever the consummate professional, Dafoe kept his cool and declined to give an answer.
The multi-awarded Appleton native initially tried to sidestep the — should we say, sticky — inquiry, reminding Amore he had come to speak with The Wrap about ongoing game development on 12 Minutes, and not Spider-Man. When asked if his answer is, in fact, “no comment,” Willem Dafoe immediately replied, “I’m afraid so.” He goes on to add: “I got lots of stuff happening now. And, you know, I always feel like when a film comes out, that’s when it’s time to talk about it.”
Here’s the interesting bit. He didn’t actually clam up. He still had something to say and the “answer” he proffered speaks infinitely more than what it tried to deny. Willem Dafoe has been part of a franchise before, but not something of this scale; every actor that has worked with Marvel Studios in the last 13 years can agree Disney takes information lockdowns more seriously than your standard movie-verse. The level of censorship is on par with nations. And Dafoe’s ruffled response betrays a peek into the corporate machinations that may have taken place in the last year. He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no either.
And he may have covertly admitted his involvement by reminding the press to only pry when a movie is finally in theaters. This may come off as aggressively speculative but consider the logic. There was no need to verbally deflect questions on a film you weren’t cast in; that wasn’t his job. Clearly, enough effort was expended into saying no, the act of which only makes it more suspect. And Willem Dafoe did confirm to having several things in the works all at once. It’s a textbook case of saying yes by saying more about saying no, only to inadvertently give yourself away — an interrogation loophole often exploited by cops or seen in courtrooms. Dafoe’s reply almost felt like clockwork, like it was rehearsed a hundred times over.
But we digress. Willem Dafoe’s interview response could be interpreted in many other ways. Until a story’s been verified, it remains uncertain. A good takeaway to consider, however, is how other rumored No Way Home stars decided to handle public speculation about their role in the third Spider-Man movie. Andrew Garfield had to be documented denying his involvement. Alfred Molina was upfront about his part before rumors started plaguing production, and was reportedly chastised by Marvel for being so open-minded about his participation. It was immediately made apparent that his reveal wasn’t a marketing ploy, but an unfortunate accident.
Most of the other actors were seen in the immediate vicinity of the Spider-Man: No Way Home sets, alongside confirmed stars like Tom Holland and Zendaya, yet still felt the urgency to remind the world they’re not involved. It would be easier, and make more of a believable story, to simply stay quiet. People usually talk more when they’re hiding something, and that remains true of any industry. Still, from a studio’s perspective, being caught denying rumors is better than allowing the public to weave stories around the void you create. It’s good for production and good for non-disclosure agreements and other noted legalities. Actors could get into a lot of trouble for breaking an NDA. As counterproductive as talking excessively might be, it keeps the process intact. Besides, speculation is what the media is for. But actors can also simply decline to comment, like what Willem Dafoe is doing.
Of course, the opposite could still be just as true. Willem Dafoe was never photographed around the set of Spider-Man: No Way Home and fans have been wrong about Phase Four allegations in the recent past. The media suspected Magneto was coming to WandaVision as the mystery character Paul Bettany teased about, and it turned out to be White Vision (still played by Bettany). When Evan Peters appeared in the same show as Quicksilver, fans were quick to conclude this Pietro Maximoff was a Variant of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s in Avengers: Age of Ultron and he was a nobody. Audiences expected Mephisto to be behind Loki and WandaVision, and Kang showed up. Still, we’ve seen different actors play a handful of different Gods of Mischief in Loki, so the reverse could still happen. Bad press or unconvincing denials aside, the speculations provide good publicity for Marvel Studios and keep the public interested in Spider-Man: No Way Home and other Phase Four entries.
Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is rumored to appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home as the leader of the Sinister Six — a multiverse-spanning cinematic version that draws from every single live-action Spider-Man so far. Insider reports claim his character is the main villain of the film. We still don’t know for sure.