Potential Oscar nominee looks back on time at UW-Milwaukee

Willem Dafoe, a veteran actor who is currently receiving acclaim and award nominations for his role in “The Florida Project,” was an acting student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee over 40 years ago, according to release from the university.

In “The Florida Project,” Dafoe plays the manager of a rundown motel who comes to care for the children close to poverty who live there. Dafoe’s performance alongside an almost entirely novice cast is making him a strong contender for a best supporting actor Oscar nomination, UWM said.

Dafoe was a UWM student for a year and a half, and it is said that his teachers and peers recognized his talent.

UWM has several digitized clips of Dafoe in UWM productions, as he reportedly had major roles in two productions while studying, the release said.

According to UWM, Dafoe left the university to join Theatre X, an independent experimental theater company, before moving to New York.

In the release, Corliss Phillabaum, who taught at UWM for 40 years, remembers Dafoe as “a delight to work with and a wonderful team member of a cast.”

UWM said Dafoe himself looks back on his time at UWM positively.

“I was young and very unsophisticated, but eager to train and perform,” Dafoe said in an email to UWM. “I was totally involved and spent most nights on a couch in the theatre because I was always working and studying and didn’t want to go home.”

“My time at UWM was a very formative and positive experience,” Dafoe told his alma mater.

Since his time as a student, Dafoe has become a familiar face and can be recognized from his performances in movies such as “Spider-Man” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” with five films in 2017 alone, according to IMBD.

Oscar nominations will be announced January 23rd in Los Angeles.