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The comic book movie genre has come a long way over the course of the last two decades, and much of that progress can be traced back to Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man. Despite its massive success and its all-star cast, the film was apparently considered a risky venture when the offer to play Norman Osborn initially went to Willem Dafoe. In fact, The Florida Project actor recently opened up about how people responded to his decision to play Green Goblin, and it seems may people turned their noses up at the idea. Dafoe explained:
When 'Spider-Man' was proposed to me originally it was like, 'Really, you're going to make a movie from a comic book?' It was like I was slumming it, you know? I didn't see it that way, but some people were like, 'Really?'
Willem Dafoe made these remarks while sharing the stage with Hugh Jackman on Variety's Actors on Actors show, which adds further context to the importance of their involvement in the superhero genre. Dafoe's work on Spider-Man, as well as Jackman's work on Bryan Singer's original X-Men movie, arguably ushered in the modern era of comic book movies and legitimatized the genre. We had seen some significant successes with DC properties like Tim Burton's Batman and Richard Donner's Superman, but comic book projects were often regarded as subpar (mainly through the 1990s with films like Spawn and Steel) until the release of Spider-Man and X-Men.
Of course, that did not stop Willem Dafoe from arguably delivering one of the most delightfully campy performances in the history of superhero cinema. Seriously, every frame of his Goblin is pure gold.
That increased legitimacy has only become more profound and pronounced as other directors and actors have stepped in to push the genre forward and raise the bar. Willem Dafoe and Hugh Jackman also noted the contributions that Christopher Nolan made to the style with The Dark Knight trilogy, as well as more recent additions like Deadpool and Logan. Looking ahead to the future, it's also clear that the initial concerns about starring in a comic book movie have not weighed on Willem Dafoe over the years. In fact, he is already gearing up to get back into the genre with the DCEU's Aquaman movie, in which he will portray Atlantean political advisor Nuidis Vulko alongside Jason Momoa's Aquaman.