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Willem Dafoe Discusses Why He Enjoys Switching Between Big-Budget And Indie Movies - Exclusive

Willem Dafoe has spent decades making movies. In that time, he's learned a thing or two about what makes it possible to do his best work. One of those things is to not get bogged down in whether the film is big budget, indie, or somewhere in between. The important thing is to check out the story and base the decision to pursue it on that instead of on size.

Take Dafoe's latest film, for example. "Inside" is the epitome of an indie movie, with only Dafoe, who portrays the art thief Nemo, on screen for much of the time. After Nemo's heist goes wrong, he's stuck inside the New York penthouse he planned to rob with no discernible way out, making for a harrowing story. This stands in contrast to "Spider-Man: No Way Home," in which he reprises his role as Norman Osborn, which is blockbuster filmmaking at its finest.

In both cases — and many others — Dafoe is happy to take these characters on, and in an exclusive interview with Looper, he explained why that is. It turns out there are many things beyond the budget to be concerned with.

'It keeps you loose so you're ready for anything'

Dafoe switches back and forth from indie to big budget with ease, taking on a role like Nemo in "Inside" or Clem Hoatley in "Nightmare Alley" with as much confidence and clarity as he does a role like Vulko in "Aquaman." No matter what part he gets, he gives it his all, and it turns out, that's no accident.

"Each film is different. Each experience is different. Each role is different," Dafoe said. "... I need different things at different times. My needs change. ... Don't be too tight on your rules. Every time something is proposed to you or you encounter something, check it out. Do due diligence."

In the end, Dafoe's willingness to experience new characters and try new things comes from an understandable place. In fact, he finds it so consequential, he thinks of it as his mantra.

"It's all about not getting stuck. That's my mantra lately. Keep on questioning," Dafoe said. "... At least when you vary things, you can start to practice flexibility because you do have to change your way of performing, your way of preparing, your way of dealing with people socially and professionally for each project. It keeps you loose so you're ready for anything, and that is what everybody should be aspiring to."

No typecasting for Dafoe! If there's one thing he can certainly say, it's he's avoided getting stuck.

See Willem Dafoe in "Inside," now in theaters, and buy the film's merchandise at Super Yaki.