Willem Dafoe — star of “Spider-Man,” “Platoon” and other notable films — goes back a long way with Cleveland Institute of Art President Grafton Nunes. Nunes produced the movie, “The Loveless,” which was the Oscar-nominated actor’s first starring role back in 1981. Dafoe came to Cleveland to help out his old friend Saturday, giving the commencement address at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He also took time to do a Q&A at a screening of a “Pasolini,” at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. The 2014 film, directed by Abel Ferrara, stars Dafoe as the Italian filmmaker, poet and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini.
It was a time where dancers were making films, actors were painting, visual artists were performing, and everybody was making music. There was an amateur do-it-yourself aesthetic that wasn’t pursuing recognition or acceptance outside of a certain social circle. Often, the works were sloppy, incomprehensible, lazy, obtuse, and truly just bad. These people weren’t careerists—there was no career to be had in these forms. The most they could hope for to parlay their success into was to sleep with more attractive people in the downtown scene. But, there was something there in some of the work that exhibited extraordinary personal commitment, emotion, and abandon I had not seen elsewhere. For me, these qualities trumped all training and technique.