Willem Dafoe and Ramy Youssef Went to Mortician School for ‘Poor Things’

Willem Dafoe and Ramy Youssef Went to Mortician School for ‘Poor Things’

Yorgos Lanthimos’ upcoming Frankenstein-inspired fantasy “Poor Things” felt like a “college campus” for his cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Ramy Youssef, who were all tasked with learning new skills.

Youssef and Dafoe were assigned to mortician school, with classes based on the 19th-century approach to autopsies and embalming. Dafoe portrays the unorthodox scientist who brings Bella Baxter (Stone) back to life.

“It was like: ‘Mark (Ruffalo) is going to accent class, Emma is going to dance class, and then me and Willem are going to hang with the mortician, and we’ll link back up at lunch,’” Youssef told Empire magazine. “It felt like a college campus.”

As for Dafoe’s dedication to learning how to be a mortician, Youssef continued, “Willem got really focused on it. I’d be joking around, stitching something up – I kind of had a knack for it because my hands are a little bit smaller, I was able to get in there – and Willem would be like, ‘What the fuck?’ But once he got it, he really got it better than me.”

Dafoe addressed the unique experience of working on a Lanthimos production.

“It’s a different relationship than you normally have with scene partners,” the “Lighthouse” actor said. “You’re very patient with everyone, and everyone’s patient with you. They need to be confident in what they’re doing, because what we’re doing is quite risky. It’s not a normal film.”

Dafoe will reunite with writer-director Lanthimos and lead actress Stone for the film “AND.” A New York Times profile earlier this year revealed that Dafoe let Stone slap him 20 times off-screen so Stone could get into character for “AND.”

“There’s this instinct to perform that many actors have — the ‘look at me, look at me!’ kind of performer,” Stone said of Dafoe. “He’s the opposite of that. A lot of actors I bond with have been doing this for a long time, and you know they’ve gone from ‘I’ to ‘We.’”

Lanthimos added that Dafoe’s dedication is why he hopes to continue working with the actor.

“That’s what you want from actors,” Lanthimos said. “To want to be part of it in any way.”