Willem Dafoe is Playing a 9-Foot Tall Alien in John Carter of Mars

October 20, 2009
Source: AICN, MTV

Willem Dafoe

We've known that Willem Dafoe had been cast in Andrew Stanton's John Carter of Mars since July, so that's not the news here today, but the actor talked with both AICN and MTV recently and revealed a lot of interesting details about his character and the project. While the debate over whether James Cameron's Avatar will be a success or not still wages on, it seems the movie has already inspired other big Hollywood productions, including this one. Without seeing anything it's hard to know exactly what it'll look like, but it sounds like Stanton is working on the next Avatar-like sci-fi epic with 9-foot tall aliens and CGI characters.

John Carter of Mars is currently scheduled to start shooting next January, so Dafoe doesn't know much about it yet, but he is "very excited" and he has "seen renderings" of his character. Dafoe is playing Tars Tarkas, a leader of the Thark race who knows that the only way his people can survive is if they turn away from war. For those unfamiliar with the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels that this movie is based on (and for those curious about what Stanton is planning on doing), here's how Dafoe explains what he looks like.

"I've seen a lot of the designs and things, and I've just started to do prep work now… But I'm starting doing [CGI] scans and things like that, but it's going to be a real full-on… Well, I'm nine feet tall with four arms, but, just from the scheduling, I'm going to do the stuff."

Whoa, 9 feet tall with four arms? Let's not forget that this guy has green skin, too. For those of you confused, John Carter of Mars is about a Civil War soldier (played by Taylor Kitsch) who is transported to the red planet where warring races of aliens vie for control and he gets mixed up in things (and falls in love with a martin princess, of course). Although Dafoe's character is a member of the Tharks, a brutal and mirthless race of green martins, Tars possesses a sense of compassion and empathy uncharacteristic of his race. So, importantly, he'll need to be able to convey those emotions even though he'll be a green martian.

"Also, they'll use my face, but they'll enhance it in a way--both after and before--in a way that I may not be recognizable. But, I'm good with that. It's particularly cool, because he's a creature, but he's got this huge range of character. And, he does cool things in the movies."

In the interview with AICN, Dafoe was also asked if he had worked out a voice for the martian yet. "No," Dafoe said, "but there's a whole period where we're going to work with the language and the movement, and find out how I'm going to be nine feet tall, and all that stuff… like, a long period of time where we're going to go to Thark school, you know what I mean? We're going to create our culture. So, it's going to be very cool. These guys know how to do this, and they've got great people. And, the designs and things are just mind-blowing." I was excited already, but damn, Dafoe is really hyping this up. It sounds frickin' epic!

Lastly, one area of this project we've been unsure about since it was first announced is whether it will be completely CGI or live-action or some hybrid mix of both. Stanton has always been vague while answering that question. Dafoe also gave two vague answer. "It is going to be a combination," he told AICN. "Andrew Stanton comes out of Pixar and the amount of research and development that they do on this stuff is incredible. And I'll be involved in part of that," he told MTV. Stanton previously said that John Carter will be the "perfect definition of a hybrid movie," integrating live-action and computer-based animation.

Without seeing any of the actual designs oursleves, it's hard to get a real sense of how Andrew Stanton's John Carter of Mars will actually look, but I can't stop thinking of Avatar. That movie is also a blend of live-action and CGI animation and features 9-foot tall aliens on an entirely new planet as well. Though that comes from the mind of James Cameron, this comes from the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'm excited to hear more about this and, in due time, get a glimpse at what it'll all look like. Anyone else interested?

Find more posts: Hype, Movie News, Opinions



I trust Stanton more than I trust Cameron, I hope the alien races face skew further away from humanoid than with Avatar, and the 4 arms give me hope 🙂

shadow on Oct 20, 2009


Really??? Because the aliens are nine feet tall all you can think of is Avatar? This article is a stretch, my friend (and a bit insane). You're acting as if Avatar is the most original film ever made, it's a freakin alien movie with a mix of Dances With Wolves and The Matrix as a plot, it is obvious that Avatar has been influenced by countless films itself, so these other films should get credit if anything. But to say that another movie (that is based on an old novel) is influenced by Avatar is nonsense, it's a Sci-Fi epic (so was the novel, so it's influenced by the novel not Avatar), it takes place on a completely different world (it's Mars for crying out loud, also the novel), has 9 foot tall aliens (I don't know how tall they were in the novel, but Men In Black had some 9 footers, big deal). If anything Avatar has been influenced by these Sci-Fi novels of the past, to say that it's influencing films that are adaptations of novels it's barrowing from is the worst attempt at elevating Avatar to a pedestel it doesn't yet deserve, I've ever seen. Do yourself a favor and take a break from Avatar, you're not thinking clearly. Oh yeah, John Carter sounds like it might be cool, I love how it's still about a Civil War soldier. I hope it's live action, I'd heard it was.

Matt S on Oct 20, 2009


When did Avatar become a standard for anything?

SlashBeast on Oct 20, 2009


Like it or not, and for good or bad, Avatar's a big blue monolith on the horizon of the film industry. We're already seeing other people take a look at that tower and start building their own next to it, so to say that it has no influence is totally innaccurate. And hey, if Cameron can inspire more people to get interested in Sci Fi, and directors more likely to experiment witht their ideas, then it can only be a good thing.

Digital Metaphor on Oct 20, 2009


Meh, it's a Disney film, so it's either going to be all action and no brains like the last two Pirates films, or they're going to water down the source material so much that it won't be worth seeing at all (like their recent Witch Movie failure). I respect Stanton a lot for his previous work pre-"deal with the Disnevil", but you know what they say about laying down with dogs... And am I the only one who can't stand Kitsch in anything he does? What's the matter Disney? Was Jared Padalecki busy? Did Justin Hartley turn the role down? Did Zac Efron take you off speed-dial?

Pete the Geek on Oct 20, 2009


Dafoe is awesome!

M-Cat on Oct 20, 2009


Yeah! Avatar sucks! And James Cameron is a jerk, and he's ugly! But on a completely unrelated note, John Carter of Mars sounds like it's gonna rock. I am so happy to hear that Dafoe is gonna be Tars Tarkas. He'll be awesome in that role. If anyone thinks this movie sounds good they need to read the books. Thoroughly entertaining reads.

Joshua m on Oct 20, 2009


James Cameron of Mars.

Al on Oct 20, 2009


*agrees with #2* Sounds interesting to me. I'm really sick of hearing about Avatar though. 🙁

Sabes on Oct 20, 2009


#4 - You conveniently neglected the original Pirates of the Caribbean.

SlashBeast on Oct 20, 2009


CGI? But Dafoe already kinda looks like an alien....I kid. But this honestly sounds like the real Avatar. Hmph dunno

Cody on Oct 20, 2009


I believe you've put the cart before the horse. Books like Barsoom series inspired Avatar. Avatar didn't inspire them. The similarities you've mentioned are very cosmetic, and just shows how little James Cameron has strayed from his inspiration. I'm looking forward to this film. I still wish Andrew Stanton had been allowed to make it as an adult-targeted traditionally animated film as he had planned, but I guess the Disney execs got their way with their live-action push. Plus the books are brilliant.

Mark on Oct 20, 2009


So "epic" is your new word of the month Billington? Last month it was "badass", what's next?

Meh on Oct 20, 2009


#12, more like badass was his word of the year.

Al on Oct 20, 2009


isnt pretty much any movie that has cgi in it a mixture of live action and cgi? and damn, cameron and avatar even get hype in articles about movies that have nothing to do with them. im not sure why that is

shredder on Oct 20, 2009


You just spoiled the fuckin movie for me with the title, nice goin.

nem on Oct 21, 2009


@Cody - looks like?... Dafoe is an alien. (but a good one)

bozo on Oct 21, 2009


Can we stop referring to Avatar! there are more SF movies out there which already set a standard. In my opinion Avatar is highly overrated, and is also a kids movie. John Carter should be raw as f*ck!

Jarno on Oct 21, 2009


I mean 13, not 12, my mistake.

Al on Oct 21, 2009


#18 - Jarno You've seen the movie in order to confirm your claims?

SlashBeast on Oct 21, 2009


sounds wicked!

Kalladin on Oct 22, 2009

22 James Cameron was inspired by the John Carter series. Read here- nspired by author Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter Of Mars fantasy book series, Avatar is set during the 22nd century on a small moon called 'Pandora', inhabited by the tribal 'Na'vi', ten foot blue humanoids that are peaceful unless attacked. I don't care to wade through all of the Avatar stuff to find it but I think if you look you may be able to find Cameron's quote on the subject. I am thrilled about the big screen adaptation of John Carter (though book to movie adaptations are usually a let down). I would also like to see Avatar. The less you follow the hype the better you can enjoy these things I think.

BlueM on Dec 19, 2009


a leader of the Thark race who knows that the only way his people can survive is if they turn away from war Really? Funny, that's not how I remember the books. They celebrate war all the way through.

anon on Jun 25, 2010

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