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Stop the presses! Willem Dafoe is actually aware of all the Norman Osborn/Green Goblin memes inspired by his performance in Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man movie. The viral internet jokes have gotten so out of hand, that the actor had no interest in stepping back onto the glider for No Way Home if the entire role amounted to nothing more than "a series of memes," Dafoe stated during a conversation with The New York Times.
"When [producer] Amy Pascal and [director] Jon Watts called me up and said we’d like to pitch you this idea, I thought, 'This is crazy. But let’s see what they have to say,'" he remembered. "I really didn’t want to do a cameo. I wanted to make sure there was something substantial enough to do that wasn’t just a tip of the hat. And the other thing was, I said I really want there to be action — I want to take part in action scenes. Because that’s really fun for me. It’s the only way to root the character."
But, as Thanos once said, some things are just inevitable. Spider-Man: No Way Home still ended up throwing a bone to ravenous meme enthusiasts with Norman's famous line of dialogue: "You know, I'm something of a scientist myself." It's only rivaled by the "I started this company" speech during the Oscorp boardroom scene.
Even with that small bit of schmaltzy fan service, Green Goblin's return astounded general audiences, with more than a few viewers comparing Dafoe's unflinchingly evil revisitation of the character to Heath Ledger's iconic take on the Joker in The Dark Knight. That was helped along by the creative decision to not feature the antagonist's not-so-comic-accurate costume (click here for the original design), which allowed Dafoe to genuinely convey the menace of Norman's alter ego through unmasked facial expressions.
"I am aware that there was some criticism of that [Green Goblin] mask in the original one," the actor continued. "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."
Of course, the movie features a plethora of other multiversal baddies like Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2. However, when Pascal and Watts came knocking, Molina assumed they were going to ask him to "play another villain or maybe [take part in] an interview for some retrospective documentary" (it's unclear if he thought it was another Spider-Man villain or something else entirely).
"As the years had gone by, I thought, 'They may well bring Doc Ock back,' But I never thought they’d bring him back with me," he admitted to the Times. "I was witness to my body changing, things moving. I walked in completely innocent. Like everyone else, I didn’t know the full extent of where the film was going. I didn’t get to read a whole script — I just saw the pages pertinent to me."
Jamie Foxx, who returned to play Electro (last seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2), voiced his admiration for Sony and Marvel Studios' joint effort to keep as many plot secrets under wraps as possible, despite all of the leaks.
"They were able to keep the mystique alive in a world where mystique doesn’t exist, anywhere," he said. "There’s Instagram posts and it’s about how many likes you get. Imagine if Picasso was screenshotting everything, everybody could see it, like, 'Eh, I don’t want to buy that painting.' They kept everything under wraps and we all bought into something."
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theaters everywhere.