Known for the darkly eccentric characters he often plays, Willem Dafoe is one of the screen's more provocative and engaging actors. Strong-jawed and wiry, he has commented that his looks make him ideal for playing the boy next door -- if you happen to live next door to a mausoleum.
Although his screen persona may suggest otherwise, Dafoe is the product of a fairly conventional Midwestern upbringing. The son of a surgeon and one of seven siblings, he was born on July 22, 1955 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Dafoe began acting as a teenager, and at the age of seventeen he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Growing weary of the university's theatre department, where he found that temperament was all too often a substitute for talent, he joined Milwaukee's experimental Theatre X troupe. After touring stateside and throughout Europe with the group, Dafoe moved to New York in 1977, where he joined the avant-garde Wooster Group.