Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Surprising Way Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin Costume Affected His Performance In Sam Raimi's Spider-Man

Willem Dafoe's menacing performance as Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" is often ranked as one of the best superhero movie villains of all time. Both inside the costume as the Goblin and outside it as Norman Osborn, Dafoe brings maniacal energy to his scenes. His evil cackles and the hum of the Goblin Glider portend chaos as he descends from the sky. Everything about Osborn is terrifying enough that the more slapstick aspects of Raimi's directorial vision feel like a counterbalance to him.

When Dafoe returned to the role of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin for "Spider-Man: No Way Home," his wardrobe was overhauled, ditching the iconic helmet to allow a more natural performance from the veteran actor. It was a choice that felt more in line with the tone of the new film, but there's no denying that Raimi's "Spider-Man" wouldn't feel the same without the Goblin helmet's angular lines, yellow eyes, and fearsome teeth.

Twenty years after its release, "Spider-Man" remains relevant and the team behind it has been reminiscing in honor of the anniversary. In a new interview, Dafoe and Raimi revealed the surprising way the Green Goblin costume affected Dafoe's legendary performance in the film.

Being in a mask meant Dafoe had to use more body expression

Speaking with Variety for an expose celebrating 20 years of "Spider-Man," Sam Raimi and Willem Dafoe revealed the unique challenges that came with acting in Dafoe's iconic Green Goblin suit and spoke about how they overcame them. According to the director, one of the hardest things for Dafoe to work around was acting while wearing the giant Green Goblin helmet.

Since, in scenes that included both Spider-Man and Green Goblin, both actors were wearing masks, it became difficult to communicate emotion while filming. Raimi explained, "I would sometimes communicate to the actors, 'I need an additional gesticulation of your fingers here to explain your helplessness.' Or in the case of sadness, 'Can I have a slight tilt to the mask down?'" Even with his incredible delivery, simply having dialogue wasn't enough, and Raimi asked Dafoe to be more expressive with his body, explaining, "The subtleties of the voice weren't always enough. It sometimes had to be demonstrated through a gesture or movement or the way a character stands or sits."

For his part, Dafoe embraced the challenge and drew on his stage background for in-costume Green Goblin performances. "I did come from a theater tradition that appreciated a different kind of performance style than naturalism," he explained.

"Spider-Man" is far from the only superhero movie to have its performances affected by the issue of costuming. Robert Pattinson has previously revealed that, to compensate for the Batsuit's cowl, Matt Reeves made him do 40 takes in one day while shooting "The Batman." Tom Holland has also spoken about the need to be more expressive with his body while acting in costume as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.