December 15 – 18, 2000

American Cinematheque presents...

The Pretender:

An In-Person Tribute to WILLEM DAFOE

"The best performing is, for me, a sort of pure pretending."

Willem Dafoe

We’re very pleased to welcome Willem Dafoe to the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian for the first U.S. Retrospective of his work and the U.S. Premiere of his latest film, SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE!

Series Compiled by Dennis Bartok.


Special Thanks To: Jennifer Morgerman & Chad Campbell/LION’S GATE FILMS; Kelly Bush/IDPR; Karen Fried/THE ANGELLOTTI CO.; John Kirk/MGM-UA; Ed Zeier & Merrilee Griffin/UNIVERSAL PICTURES; Kathryn Bigelow; Arnold Kopelson; FINE LINE.

This schedule is subject to change.

Tickets available 30 days in advance.


SCHEDULE (by series)

SCHEDULE (by date)





The Village Voice once called him a "a pallidly beautiful embodiment of pure evil" for his performances as the mesmerizing counterfeiter in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. and the sneering, bad-ass biker lord in STREETS OF FIRE. Dafoe has managed to bring the same coiled intensity and transparent elegance to his work as a flesh-and-blood Jesus in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST,as well as a martyred soldier struggling for the soul of his green-horn troops in PLATOON. Ironically, for a performer whose first and greatest love remains the theater – his work with the avant-garde Wooster Group in New York is almost legendary – Willem Dafoe has emerged as one of the most consistently surprising and deeply committed film actors of his generation.

A native of Wisconsin, where he was raised in a family of eight children, Dafoe spent his early years as an actor touring the U.S. and Europe. He finally landed in Manhattan in the late 1970’s, where he quickly made a name for himself with the Performance Group. Dafoe’s early career as a sly, love-to-hate-him villain barely hinted at his transformation into the tormented anti-heroes of films like LIGHT SLEEPER, PLATOON and THE ENGLISH PATIENT. "I think your best work comes when you’re unsure, when you’re terrified, when you’re off-balance," Dafoe has said. With his astonishing work as Max Schreck in Elias Merhige’s SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE (soon to be released by Lion’s Gate Films), Dafoe has come full circle, investing the skeletal villain with the same piercing intelligence and resilient humanity as his other great roles.

Friday, December 15 – 7:30 PM

Special Benefit Premiere!!

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, 2000, Lion’s Gate, 90 min. Dir. Elias Merhige. One of the most audacious, spine-tingling and brilliantly perverse twists on film history ever made, inspired by the making of the classic gothic chiller NOSFERATU. John Malkovich stars as legendary German director F.W. Murnau, who opts for the ultimate in on-screen realism when he hires an actual vampire, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) to play a bloodsucker in his latest film – with the bait being the luscious throat of leading lady Catherine McCormack. Dafoe’s performance here is flat-out phenomenal, a combination of skin-crawling, otherworldly elegance and razor-sharp humor. Co-starring Udo Kier, Cary Elwes and Eddie Izzard. "Rummages through a dark and hallowed portion of silent-movie history to create a fanciful concoction sure to please cinema buffs and lovers of vampire lore" – Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter.

Special Ticket Price of $50.00 includes the U.S. Premiere of SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE and Post-Screening Party in the Egyptian Courtyard. Cast (Willem Dafoe, Nicolas Cage, etc.) & Crew scheduled to attend. Pre-purchase on the phone with a credit card or by fax for this show only. Call 323.461.2020, ext. 117 or fax to 323.461.9737. Include name as it appears on card, your phone #, exp. date and credit card number. All orders will be confirmed. Tickets also available at the box office. Tickets will be available at the door. Get yours today!


Saturday, December 16 – 5:00 PM

PLATOON, 1986, Orion (MGM/UA), 120 min. Director Oliver Stone’s astonishing elegy to lost innocence with Charlie Sheen as the green young soldier torn between the philosophical humanity of sergeant Willem Dafoe and the scarred, satanic ferocity of sergeant Tom Berenger. A sublimely beautiful and hypnotically horrific vision of the contradictions of Viet Nam. Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. Discussion following with actor Willem Dafoe.

Saturday, December 16 – 8:00 PM

Dafoe Drive-In Movie Double Feature:

THE LOVELESS, 1983, MGM/UA, 84 min. Dirs. Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery. A surreal candy-colored postcard of a leatherclad hepcat Fifties, this homage to Brando and THE WILD ONE has Dafoe (in his first starring role) and rockabilly singer Robert Gordon as bikers trekking through Florida to the holy grail of the Daytona races. Unfortunately THE LOVELESS has become unavailable at the last minute. It will be replaced by WILD AT HEART (1990, 124 min.) Directed by David Lynch. Based on Barry Gifford's Novel. Young lovers Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) take off for New Orleans following Sailor's release from prison, with Lula's hysterical mother, a weary detective and a sinister hitman after them. During their journey, Lula and Sailor relate the events of their lives to date, while encountering a typical gallery of Lynch grotesques. After being stranded in a small town, Sailor agrees to join the loathsome Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) in a criminal venture. Full of lurid imagery and references to The Wizard of Oz.

STREETS OF FIRE, 1984, Universal, 94 min. One of the great, guilty pleasures of the 1980’s, director Walter Hill’s spectacular, rock & roll-fueled pulp classic roars at you like a souped-up roadster with the radio going full blast. B-movie god Michael Paré stars as an enigmatic loner who comes back to town to save former gal-pal Diane Lane from the clutches of sinister biker chieftain Dafoe (sporting one of the wickedest hair-dos known to mankind.) Outtasight, baby!!


Sunday, December 17 – 5:00 PM

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, 1988, Universal, 164 min. Dir. Martin Scorsese. An insightful, intensely personal adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel that dares to portray a human as well as divine Jesus. Willem Dafoe is a realistic, believable Christ beset by doubt, whose faith and selflessness finally triumph in the ultimate self-sacrifice. This indelibly moving film features a dream cast with Harvey Keitel as an idealistic Judas tortured by unfolding destiny and a luminous Barbara Hershey as a sensual, sensitive Mary Magdalene. Discussion following with actor Willem Dafoe.


Sunday, December 17 – 8:30 PM

TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT, 1989, Triumph Releasing, 121 min. Dir. Robert M. Young. Dafoe gives one of his finest, most uncompromising performances in this true-life account of a Greek-Jewish boxer, Salamo Arouch, who was sent to Auschwitz with his family during WWII – and forced to literally fight for his life, his honor and his soul. Willem Dafoe to introduce screening.


Monday, December 18 – 7:00 PM

TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A., 1985, MGM/UA, 116 min. Director William Friedkin’s startling, exhilarating thriller stars William Petersen as a hotshot Federal agent out to bust ruthless counterfeitor Willem Dafoe (in a revelatory, tour-de-force performance). Along the way, they collide with John Turturro as a drug-mule addicted to Pepto Bismol, and Dean Stockwell as Dafoe’s morally ambivalent mouthpiece. As dynamic and unnerving as THE FRENCH CONNECTION a decade earlier, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. is Friedkin at his very best -- a turbo-charged ride through an imploding, morally-corrupt American landscape.


Monday, December 18 – 9:30 PM

LIGHT SLEEPER, 1992, New Line Cinema, 103 min. Dir. Paul Schrader. Dafoe is an alienated drug courier in night-time Manhattan faced with intimations of his own mortality, in this underrated, neo-Bressonian crime film from the author of TAXI DRIVER. Dana Delaney gives a powerful, understated performance as Dafoe’s ex-girlfriend fated for a tragic end, while Susan Sarandon shines as his drug dealer boss experiencing her own painful spiritual growth.