If you go into John Carter this weekend, you'll have to look very, very closely to find Willem Dafoe. While the veteran actor says he sees himself immediately in his character of Tars Tarkas, you might not have the same reaction when spotting the nine-foot-tall, six-limbed green alien who first encounter the strange human John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) when Carter is transported to the planet Mars. Though he is the leader of the giant alien race called the Tharks, Tars Tarkas is also uncommonly sympathetic, and soon teams up with Carter to not just save the Tharks from the evil ruler Sab Than (Dominic West), but save the entire planet as well.
Dafoe's work on John Carter was much more involved than the last time he worked with director Andrew Stanton, voicing a fish for Finding Nemo. Dafoe traveled to the Utah desert and filmed his scenes in giant stilts to play Tars Tarkas-- he describes one of the most difficult physical challenges of the film as a simple scene where Tars Tarkas goes from lying down to standing. How do you get up from the ground with stilts on your feet? How do you make any of that seem natural? With decades in the industry behind him, but no challenge quite like this one on his resume, Dafoe was ready to find out.
I talked to Dafoe on a beautiful early morning in Arizona-- there were some befuddled golfers not far away from us, wondering why we were talking where they would normally tee off-- about how Andrew Stanton changed as a director between Finding Nemo and John Carter, how he sees himself in Tars Tarkas, and how working on John Carter fits in with his affection-- or lack thereof-- for sci-fi. You can watch our conversation below, and see Dafoe in John Carter this weekend.
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Staff Writer at CinemaBlend