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If you’re a superhero making your first appearance on the big screen, you want to make that you have a a good villain to fight in the story. For Spider-Man, that villain was longtime arch-nemesis Norman Osborn, a.k.a. The Green Goblin, played by Willem Dafoe in the Sam Raimi-directed 2002 flick. It’s been nearly two decades since Spider-Man was released, and Dafoe still has fond memories of bringing the Green Goblin to life, namely because of the duality of the role. The actor explained:
I loved in Spider-Man particularly playing the double role. Everybody thinks about the Green Goblin, and that was fun, but the more interesting role was probably the father, Norman Osborn. Because you could play these scenes where it would switch from comedy to drama in a line. There’s a couple of scenes that still make me laugh, because they’re so double-edged, and they go back and forth between being really heavy and really kind of silly. And the movie is filled with that.
Norman Osborn has frequently been depicted as being insane in the comics as a result of taking that enhancement formula that boosted his physical abilities, but depending on the writer, it varies whether or not Green Goblin is a separate aspect of his personality. The first Spider-Man movie opted to go the split personality route with Norman, which is why Willem Dafoe enjoyed the role so much. Norman could present himself as normal to other people, but in an instant, he could turn into the Goblin, an unhinged super villain who had no qualms about killing anybody who stood in his way. Plus, playing Green Goblin allowed Dafoe to chew up that scenery, providing those moments of humor that Dafoe mentioned.
Willem Dafoe also mentioned during his interview with GQ that among his favorite scenes to shoot in Spider-Man was the mirror scene, where Norman talks out loud with his Green Goblin personality about having murdered the OsCorp board of directors. Although it was cut up in the final product, Dafoe shot that scene in one take numerous times, and Sam Raimi gave him Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to read beforehand to prepare. You can watch that unsettling scene below.
While Green Goblin died at the end of Spider-Man in a manner similar to his first demise in the comics (being impaled by his own glider), that didn’t mark the end of Willem Dafoe’s time in the first Spider-Man film series. He cameoed in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 when Harry Osborn, who now knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, saw visions of his father that pushed him towards seeking vengeance against Peter for Norman’s death. Since Chris Cooper only briefly appeared as Norman in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the same movie where Dane DeHaan’s Harry took on the Green Goblin mantle, Willem Dafoe is still the definitive cinematic version of Norman, and fortunately for the actor, he had a good time acting out the character.
It remains to be seen if/when another live action version of Norman Osborn Green Goblin will be introduced, although an animated version did briefly appear recently in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse that was modeled after his Ultimate incarnation. For now, stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the latest Spider-Man movies news. The Web-Slinger will swing back to theaters for his next standalone adventure, Spider-Man: Far From Home, on July 5. You can also see Willem Dafoe leave his mark on the DC Comics mythology as Vulko in Aquaman, which is winding down its time in theaters and will be released on Blu-ray March 26.