Willem Dafoe, 63, defends playing 37-year-old Van Gogh after backlash

Hanna Flint
The actor says people caught up on the age gap are not understanding what kind of film Julian Schnabel made.

Willem Dafoe is getting rave reviews for his performance as Vincent Van Gogh but his casting is also being criticised.

That’s because the artist was 37 when he died, and when the film At Eternity’s Gate is set, but the actor is 63 which some people believe is a privilege not afforded to women.

“Anyone who’s talking in those terms [against the age gap] is not understanding the kind of movie we’re making, and doesn’t have an imagination about … physical health and how things have changed over the years,” he told Vulture.

Willem is getting rave reviews for the role

“It’s not a regular biopic, number one, and number two: I was surprised that he was only 37 years old, and then I looked and did some research [on] what the average age of mortality was in France in the late 19th century. 40 years old! Now it’s 70 years old. So without being too cute about it, today’s 70 was yesteryear’s 40.”

The critics argue that actresses the same age would not be able to play a character over 25 years younger.

At Eternity’s Gate is a drama about the final days of the impressionist painter V who took his own life on July 29, 1890.

The Dutch artist suffered from mental illness and poverty and never lived to see the recognition his body of work has earned in the decades since.

Julian Schnabel directs the film and co-wrote the script with Louise Kugelberg and Jean-Claude Carrière.

Rupert Friend plays Theo van Gogh, his younger brother with Mads Mikkelsen as a Priest and Oscar Isaac as the post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin.

At Eternity’s Gate is released in the US on 16 November.

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