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Emma Stone Slapped Willem Dafoe 20 Times on the Set of New Movie—At His Request

The actor endured the pain to make the scene look more real.

Forget special effects, tricks of the camera, and stand-ins—when one of Willem Dafoe's characters is slapped in a film, he's willing to endure the pain himself. The 67-year-old actor was recently profiled in The New York Times' T magazine, including about one of his upcoming projects, the movie And, co-starring Emma Stone. The interview reveals that for the movie, Stone slapped Dafoe 20 times, even though it wasn't strictly necessary for the scene.

Read on to see what Stone and the film's director, Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), shared about working with Dafoe and why he insisted on being struck for real.

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Dafoe was on set even when he didn't need to be.

Willem Dafoe at the premiere of "Dead for a Dollar" in 2022
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

Stone and Lanthimos shared with T magazine that Dafoe was around on the movie set, even when he wasn't required to be. His co-star said that she would hear assistant directors talking about the 67-year-old actor "self-motivating to set," which meant he was showing up whether he was called to or not.

"That's what you want from actors," said Lanthimos. "To want to be part of it in any way."

Having Stone slap him was part of his commitment.

Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone at the 2018 Governors Awards
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

The plot details of And have not been revealed yet, but at one point, Stone's characters slaps Dafoe's. The actual contact of the slap happens offscreen, meaning that Stone could have acted out the moment without her co-star. But, the actor wanted to be physically present and feel the slap, so that the scene was more realistic. With all the takes they did, Stone ended up slapping him 20 times.

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Stone described Dafoe's acting style.

Emma Stone at the 2022 Academy Museum Gala
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

And is the second film that Dafoe, Stone, and Lanthimos are all working on together. The two actors also star in the Greek director's upcoming movie Poor Things, which is based on the novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray. That film is about a woman in the Victorian era, who is brought back to life by a scientist.

"There's this instinct to perform that many actors have—the 'look at me, look at me!' kind of performer. He's the opposite of that," Stone said of her co-star. "Maybe it's changed through the years. A lot of actors I bond with have been doing this for a long time, and you know they've gone from 'I' to 'We.'"

Dafoe has done his own stunts in the past.

Willem Dafoe at the premiere of "The Northman" in 2022
DFree / Shutterstock

Getting slapped isn't exactly a stunt so much as it's something to endure, but Dafoe has done some more typical stunt work, too. For the 2021 movie Spider-Man: No Way Home, Dafoe returned to playing Green Goblin—a character he first portrayed in 2002's Spider-Man—and he did his own stunts.

"It's fun to do the action sequences, it's fun to have resources," the actor told British GQ. "I make a lot of budget-challenged movies. So it's nice to have all the technical stuff to work with." He continued of doing stunts, "It's really fun to do those things because they're pure. They're pure because what you're doing is what you're doing. And your heart and mind follow."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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