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Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Willem Dafoe Explains Why One Key Green Goblin Element Was Tossed Aside

Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home lie ahead. 

There was a lot of anticipation surrounding Spider-Man: No Way Home, so fans were likely delighted when the action-packed and heartfelt film lived up to the hype. There’s plenty to love about it, and one of the coolest aspects of the movie is that it brought back a number of familiar faces (via the multiverse). This included Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, who proved to be just as maniacal as viewers remembered. However, his famed antagonist looked a bit different this time around, as one key element of the character was tossed aside. Dafoe has now shed some light on this particular creative decision. 

Norman Osborn enters No Way Home after Peter Parker and Doctor Strange inadvertently open the multiversal floodgates while casting a spell. When he first appears on screen, Osborn is seen sporting his signature jade suit. But shortly after, Norman (who’s still wrestling with his evil alter ego) not only discards his famous mask but smashes it as well. Willem Dafoe recently explained that this development stemmed from criticism surrounding this piece of the outfit:

I must be honest, I am aware that there was some criticism of that [Green Goblin] mask in the original one. We heard it enough that it was probably a consideration, to change it up a little bit. I don’t think about that because I don’t think about emoting with my face. My face follows my heart. It’s just an expression of what you’re feeling.

Shattered Green Goblin mask in Spider-Man: No Way Home

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

The Oscar nominee’s take on the iconic comic book villain in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film has been celebrated by fans and still stands as an impressive performance. However, as his recent comments to The New York Times indicate, the mask wasn’t exactly well received. Many found it to be quite stiff, instead preferring something that was expressed as the face covering from the comics. Marvel Studios isn’t one to completely ignore fans and, given how early Norman ditches the mask, it seems that the creatives definitely took the feedback to heart. 

To me, the elimination of the green headgear turned out to be a smart move. First of all, it quickly distinguished this take on the villain from the original (even though it’s the exact same character). The other obvious upside is that this move allowed audiences to actually see Willem Dafoe’s facial expressions while delivering dialogue. The man is an acting legend for a reason, and I think most would agree that he doesn’t need a mask to be terrifying. My mind immediately goes to the scene in which he deviously cackles while Peter Parker rapidly punches him. 

The actor gave a skillful performance and, after seeing it all play out, it’s funny to think that, at one point, having any kind of Green Goblin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed like a pipe dream. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Spider-Man trilogy director Jon Watts once seemed cagey about adding characters like Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Instead, they were eyeing faces that hadn’t been seen on the big screen. Even lead actor Tom Holland initially thought it would be “so hard” to bring the glider-riding bad guy into the MCU and even thought the franchise should avoid him altogether.

I think I speak for most fans when I say that we’re glad that the studio was not only able to find a way to bring back the character but also the OG actor who played him. Willem Dafoe previously explained that he loved playing the character in the original film, citing the duality of the role as something that appealed to him. That aspect of Osborn definitely shone through even more this time around and, as mentioned, this is partly due to the maskless approach. On top of that, there were also some other changes made to the costume, which created a more comfortable experience for the actor. 

Considering how things wrapped up for him, I'd say this is the last time viewers will see this version of the Spider-Man rogue. It’s comforting, however, to know that the Murder on the Orient Express alum was able to reprise his role and go out with a bang. So if you haven’t already, you can swing over to your local theater (if you’re comfortable with doing so) and check out Spider-Man: No Way Home now.

Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.