An art thief enters a luxe penthouse filled with high-end art pieces he’s meant to steal, there’s just one problem – he can’t leave. In Inside, Willem Dafoe stars as Nemo, the aforementioned art thief who finds himself stuck inside a cavernous and contemporary penthouse at the top of one of New York City’s tallest buildings. Abandoned by his partner-in-crime, Nemo must figure out how to survive when he realizes just how stuck he really is. Physical survival, though, is the least of his worries. How he will maintain his sanity is another question entirely.
Inside is directed by Vasilis Katsoupis from a screenplay by Ben Hopkins. The film had its premiere earlier this year at Berlinale, but it will expand to theaters across the US in the coming weeks.
Ahead of Inside‘s wide release, Screen Rant sat down with Dafoe to talk about the film, including the one question everyone’s been asking him because of it, what attracts him to these intense roles, and if he has a cooldown period after filming.
Willem Dafoe On Inside
Screen Rant: Inside starts off with the question, what are the three things you’d save in a fire? Nemo regrets his answer, but assuming spouse, kids, and pets are saf, what are the three things that you would save in a fire?
Willem Dafoe: Everybody’s asking me this question.
Really? I thought I was onto something.
Willem Dafoe: You’re on what everyone else is on [laughs]. I don’t have a good answer. It’s not in my imagination.
I couldn’t think of anything either when I thought about it.
Willem Dafoe: Because, first of all, I’ll be pissed if my house is on fire. But the stuff that I would take? Listen, burn it down. Start all over. I don’t want to live in the past.
A lot of your roles go to some really intense places. A few favorites of mine are Lighthouse and Antichrist. Inside, similarly, gets pretty dark. So do you find, catharsis in these roles? What draws you to these kinds of characters that slowly go mad?
Willem Dafoe: You know, I’m not sure they go mad. Or at least in Inside, I don’t think the guy goes mad. He’s forced into a situation where he has to deal with himself. Which some people would call madness, but some other people would call, you know, well overdue, and a healthy thing, and not easy.
But I like characters that get their feet held to the fire because then you aren’t trapped in behavior and attitude. It’s for keeps, you’re putting yourself out there. And I like that. I don’t like to suffer. I like comfort. I like happiness. I like peace. That’s not it. I think the way to find real peace is to ask some questions and shake yourself down. And these characters shake themselves down, either by circumstance, or by their own will. Those are the characters I like. I don’t like comfort in a character because there’s nothing to play. And I’m not talking about emotion, I’m talking about there’s nothing to do. They’re just attitude, and they’re pushing along a narrative.
I want to be transformed by having an experience. And you don’t require that from everything, but that’s sort of what you’re looking for. And sometimes you want to go away from that. But that’s kind of the thing I keep on returning to
Do you have a long cooldown period afterward?
Dafoe: No. You know, don’t brag. But when the camera goes away, when the situation goes away… The character comes out of the situation [and] comes out of the support of all these things. That’s when it comes out of you. And take away all those things, it goes back in and you want to prepare for something
Now, having said that, if there’s something that you do habitually for a long period of time, yeah, that’s going to linger. That’s going to enter your dreams. Yeah, you’re going to get in a habit, like any habit, where you’re going to reach for that thing and say, Oh, that’s over now. So it does happen. But psychologically, a lot of people think, Oh, he couldn’t shake that character. I don’t really respond to that. I mean, I understand that, but that doesn’t happen to me. Yes. I think I’m always looking for what’s next.
INSIDE tells the story of Nemo, an art thief trapped in a New York penthouse after his heist doesn’t go as planned. Locked inside with nothing but priceless works of art, he must use all his cunning and invention to survive.
Check back soon for our other interview for Inside:
Inside is now playing in theaters.