I feel I need to apologize on behalf of my 15-year-old daughter Poppy and three of her pals. From what she has told me (in between fits and giggles), she terrorized you and a friend in both the lobby and parking lot of the Regal Cinemas Santa Fe Stadium 14 cineplex on the afternoon of Friday, May 20. ---
I’m sure you recall the unfortunate incident.
I am a teacher, and spring is a difficult time, Willem. Although I don’t recall you playing any teachers (holy cow, tons of cop roles, though!), you did a turn at the most famous teacher ever in The Last Temptation of Christ, so you must understand where I’m coming from. Anyway, on Thursday in between classes, I received an email with the subject heading “pirates.” Then the message read: “hy dad wil u tke me malina amelia and ben to pirates AT 7 2MARROW?”
Willem, did I fail to mention that I’m an English teacher? Yes, you’d be disappointed, too, I’m sure. However, I agreed to take Poppy and her friends home from school on Friday and then drive them to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean on opening day. Willem, I’m sure you’ve met Johnny Depp (is he as nice as he seems?) and wish the bank accounts of your fellow thespians to be fatter than both Weinstein brothers at an all-you-can-eat buffet, yet as a man who has taught Hamlet fifteen years in a row, I had a hard time taking on the role of “excited” for this premiere.
From my flimsy research, I know you have a son, but have you ever seen a gaggle of 15-year-old girls and one boy tear through a modest house looking for props and costumes? Perhaps it could be reminiscent of your early years when you left the University of Wisconsin to work with Theater X (more flimsy research). I walked the high school stage in plays by Max Frisch and Eugène Ionesco, so I recalled the erratic behavior as I watched Poppy and her cohorts tie sashes and smear eyeliner. Willem, they actually believed they looked like pirates. Their appearance, however, truly resembled a community college production of The Rocky Horror Show with costumes stolen from The Salvation Army’s dumpster. It was sad.
So I drove these geeks-now-freaks in my modest car, windows down, music blaring (ah, youth!), along back roads and past passersby craning their necks. The company stumbled out of my Honda almost an hour before showtime, and that’s when they saw you. Poppy tells me it was her friend Malina who spotted you first.
“Is that the Green Goblin?” she asked the other cross-dressers, rope dangling from her fist. Malina and her fellow innocents sadly do not know your fine work on Platoon (a pivotal movie in my childhood), Mississippi Burning or Basquiat. They know you only as James Franco’s dad (which makes you doubly cool if such notoriety matters).
I’m not sure who shouted your character’s name first: Malina in her Capt. Jack/Jane Sparrow outfit, Poppy in a pink hairpiece that barely stayed on her head, Amelia in her red velvet robe and Marilyn Monroe wig, or eye-patch-wearing Ben who said he could recognize your award-winning smile with only one eye. From all reports, you heard “Green Goblin! Green Goblin!” shouted repeatedly by a short campily-dressed mob shaking swords and mysterious bags, and you ran. I don’t blame you, Willem Dafoe. I would have run, too. They said they chased you out of the lobby and into the parking lot, where you hid behind a battalion of cars, an evasive maneuver obviously gleaned from Inside Man or perhaps a movie I hope Poppy will never have the misfortune to watch, American Psycho.
In closing, I want to say that the behavior of a few teenagers (albeit freakishly dressed) does not reflect the tone or flavor of Santa Fe and its inhabitants. Then again, maybe it does.
Robert Wilder’s most recent book is Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge. Daddy Needs a Drink appears the first Wednesday of each month in the Santa Fe Reporter.